Live Concert Photography: Congo Sanchez, People’s Champs and M.A.K.U. Soundsystem at Brooklyn Bowl 3/9/15

Live Concert Photography: Congo Sanchez, People’s Champs and M.A.K.U, Soundsystem 

Brooklyn Bowl

March 9, 2015

Last week, i was at Brooklyn Bowl to catch the Washington, DC-based Congo Sanchez and the New York-based People’s Champs and M.A.K.U. Soundsystem – and interestingly, two of the three acts have been covered by a number of blogs, in particular Congo Sanchez and M.A.K.U. Soundsystem.  Although it was a fairly sparse crowd for all three acts, they all played with an infectiously high energy, as though they were playing in front of a packed house at MetLife Stadium and it helped that the folks who were at Brooklyn Bowl returned the energy the band’s gave out; after all, if the crowd wasn’t receptive, the room would have felt emptier and it would have just seemed extremely depressing. But what can you do? You have to play the set in front of you, no matter what – and give out as much positive energy as you can. 

Interestingly, this show may have been one of the most varied shows i’ve seen in several years. The Washington, DC-based trio of Haile Supreme, Flex Matthews and Jeffrey “Congo” Franca, best known for his time in Thievery Corporation have a sound that draws from several different genres with the most obvious being hip-hop but it also nods to reggae, dubstep, mezcla. But beneath the percussive rhythms are lyrics rooted in the day-to-day life of the act’s members including life on the road, broken hearts, political protest and more with a decidedly positive, earnest tone – the sort of which the extremely jaded sort would initially view as being kind of corny but it’s the same sort of earnestness that would eventually win that jaded concertgoer over. It’s rather infectious, really. And you can’t really go wrong when Flex Matthews jumped into the crowd to hug various people. 

Following them was the Brooklyn-based People’s Champs, a collective that has gained attention for a sound that possesses elements of several popular and beloved African genres including Afrobeat, Soukous, Mbalax, Colombian Cumbia, Brazilian Tropicalia, R&B, funk and others in a mix that sounds both familiar and alien. And by far, the band’s frontperson Melanie Childs is a superstar in waiting – she’s charismatic, effortlessly soulful and brash in the girl next door fashion. I couldn’t help think of how she reminded me of girls I had known back when I was in school. And when they build up a riddim, holy shit it’s something else. 

And closing out the night was the aforementioned M.A.K.U. Soundsystem. Although based in New York, most of the band’s members originally hail from various regions of Colombia and as a result their sound incorporates elements of cumbia, Colombian folk, psych rock and reggae riddims with arrangements based around guitar, bass, horns, drums and traditional Colombian percussion in a way that sounds familiar and alien yet incredibly funky. But interestingly enough, their material lyrically deals with the realities of everyday folk such as love, the struggle to survive with one’s dignity intact, their own experiences as immigrants but with an uplifting positivity — the sort of that would make even the hardest cynic smile.

Check out some photos below.

Congo Sanchez

People’s Champs

M.A.K.U. Soundsystem 

For these photos and more, check out the Flickr set here: