Live Concert Photography: Summer Thunder at Union Pool 7/7/18: Songhoy Blues with Braineaters
Summer Thunder is a weekly showcase, presented by Academy Records and popular Williamsburg hotspot and music venue Union Pool, showcasing both up-and-coming and nationally or internationally touring acts and DJs performing at Union Pool’s back patio — for free with drink specials and tacos from El Diablo Tacos. Last week’s Summer Thunder showcase featured the renowned Malian desert blues act Songhoy Blues and Brooklyn-based Misfits tribute band Braineaters. Interestingly, this summer may be among the strongest Summer Thunder lineups in recent memory as Combo Chimbita, Mamadou Kelly, Sun Ra Arkestra and a list of others are slated to play throughout the rest of the summer. But let’s get to the work at hand . . .
Over the past few years I’ve written quite a bit about a number of acts from the Northern African country of Mail, and from the surrounding regions. During that same period of time, Mail has been split apart by a bloody civil war between a number of different factions. Back in 2012, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) took control of Northern Mali; but shortly after, they were pushed out of the region by Ansar Dine, a jihadist group, which quickly imposed sharia law, banning cigarettes, alcohol and music. A number of musicians and artists, including Songhoy Blues’ founding trio of Garba Toure, Aliou Toure and Oumar Toure (no relation, but all Songhoy people) were forced to relocate south to Bamako, the country’s capital.
As the members of the band have publicly said, Songhoy Blues was formed “. . . to recreate that lost ambience of the North, and make all the refugees relive those Northern songs.” The band recruited Nathanael Dembélé to compete their lineup, and began playing shows across the Bamako club circuit, attracting both Songhoy and Tuareg fans. Interestingly, by September 2013, Africa Express, a collective of American and European musicians and producers led by Damon Albarn traveled to Bamako to collaborate with local musicians. The members of Songhoy Blues successfully auditioned and were introduced to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs Nick Zinner, who produced and recorded “Soubour” (which translates into English as “patience”), which appeared on that year’s African Express compilation Maison Des Jeunes.
Following the success of “Soubour,” the band returned to the studio with Zinner and co-producer Marc-Antoine Moreau to record their 2015 full-length debut Music in Exile, which was a commercial and critical success, receiving praise from The Guardian, NME and others, and as a result the band received nominations for “Best New Act” at the Q Awards and “Independent Breakthrough Act” at the AIM Awards. Adding to growing internationally recognized profile, the quartet has opened for Alabama Shakes, Julian Casablancas and Damon Albarn, and have played sets at Glastonbury Festival, Bonnaroo Festival, Latitude Festival, Roskilde Festival, Green Man Festival, Byron Bay Bluesfest, WOMADelaide and The Great Escape Festival.
The Malian Desert blues quartet stopped at Union Pool, where they played a set of material from their first two albums. Throughout their set, they reminded the captivated audience that they although most of them wouldn’t understand the lyrics, they all were united by a love of music. As cliched and trite as it may sound, I’m sure that music can be the thing that changes the world for the better. But in the meantime, check out photos from the show below.
Opening the afternoon was the Brooklyn-based Misfits tribute band Braineaters comprised of a number of musicians from the DFA Records crew — Les Savy Fav’s Andrew Redland (guitar), Sinkane’s creative mastermind and frontman Ahmed Gallab (drums), Midnight Magic’s Andrew Raposo and Holy Ghost!‘s Nick Milihiser splitting bass duties, Violent Bullshit‘s, Orchid’s and Cheeseburger‘s Jayson Green (vocals) and LCD Soundsystem‘s and The Juan Maclean‘s Nancy Whang (vocals). Their Summer Thunder set was only their second live performance ever — their first was at a DFA Records Halloween party last year — and it was comprised of a selection of classic Misfits material, along with Danzig’s “Mother.” From what I could tell, the band seems to be a way for some renowned local players to have a bit of fun, playing some songs they love whenever they have a little downtime.