by Ryan Cummings
The Rex Theater is located in the heart of Pittsburgh’s historic South Side. On a Friday night, East Carson Street is populated by scantily clad women and club-going partiers dressed for nightclubs, dive bars, or late night fast-food joints.
With just over 300 people in attendance, the venue was comfortable; a short wait for drinks at the bar and for the bathrooms and plenty of room at the back of the dance floor for hula hoping, poi, and just plain dancing your ass off.
The evening kicked off with an opening set from Daniel Zook also known as Degree-Z. He is a local from Pittsburgh who studied music at the University of Pittsburgh and got his groove in the San Francisco Bay area. His current influences include Galactic, Dumstaphunk, Pretty Lights and Lotus. Degree-Z played several remixes as well as a few bumping originals.
At 10pm, Eliot Lipp began performing, setting the attitude for the night. Lipp could have done the show alone but the live drummer, Steve Bryant provided some extra percussion with a bass drum, high-hat, crash/ride cymbal, and two snare drums. The combination of Lipp and Bryant was at times touch-and-go: Lipp usually plays his shows solo and I feel like Bryant was having a hard time keeping up. Lipp was using his Korg synthesizer and midi keyboard to pump out old school funky beats and warm analog tones.
The track “Glasspipe” off of album Tacoma Mockingbird featured many of these retro funk sounds generated through frequency modulation and voltage controlled oscillation by means of vintage Korg equipment made in late 1970’s. The vibrations coming from the speakers on this song are unnatural and hard to believe. After coming on the microphone to ask the crowd “What’s up guys, you guys good?” he dropped the groovy beat for “Beamrider” and unrelentingly continued to play a surprising remix of the track off of his album Peace Love Weed 3D. With blissful melodies and sliding bass lines, “Beamrider” was a definite crowd pleaser. Eliot Lipp also samples lyrics from hip-hop, uniquely fusing electronic music with rapping. Eliot Lipp’s contemporary, retro feel led right into the pleasing style of music that oozes from BoomBox’s Zion Godchaux and Russ Randolph.
BoomBox’s live show has a sound that resonates in your body hours after the music stops. The two-piece band does not have a predetermined set-list; instead they feed the off the energy of the crowd and the vigor of the venue in order to select their jams in the moment.
Zion Rock Godchaux was dressed like a funky disco pimp from the 70’s sporting his customary black leather vest, a yellow and orange fuzzy marabou feather boa, a pink shag bucket hat and gold pimp shades. Godchaux, the son of Keith and Donna Jean formerly of the Grateful Dead, specializes in funky rhythms and low frequency guitar wobbles. Russ “the Captain” Randolph also has a musical upbringing and was previously a producer for the albums of many popular artists. Randolph is the DJ, drummer, and sound engineer, the beat mastermind for BoomBox.
The most memorable performance of the night and my ultimate favorite BoomBox rendition, “Shakedown Street” was accompanied by a kaleidoscope of colors on stage and a barrage of glow-sticks from the crowd. Everyone was dancing with everyone, singing along with the lyrics and mesmerized by the design spotlights that illuminated the stage, ceiling and walls. The shakedown jam turned into “Tonight,” a jazz and funk inspired track in the midst of 300 sweaty fans dancing and clapping along to the leisurely melody of the tune.
After “Tonight” from Visions of a Backbeat, the stage went dark and Randolph dropped the clap cadence and the piano track for the next song and wildness immediately ensued. A slow, trippy jam, “Midnight on the Run” inspired the crowd to let loose and really get down.
Following what might be my second favorite BoomBox song, “Stereo,” the opening track from Visions of a Backbeat began with stage lights coming from behind creating the essence of shadowy figures of the on stage artists. Those who decided to stay for the entire set were treated to an assortment of their heavier, more progressive tracks like “Mr. Boogie Man” and others from their latest album Downriverelectric.
The night wasn’t finished just yet. After a 15 minute drive on the highway and down a mile long winding dirt road, it concluded, however with Dregree-Z performing at an undisclosed location with a select group of fans in attendance. By way of a fully stocked fridge full of beer and liquor, the party was prolonged just a few more hours in the basement of this party-house, deep in the woods.
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