The Budos Band at Heineken Transatlantic Festival: Event Review

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The Budos Band have described their music as Afro-Soul, claiming influences from Ethiopia, 60s soul and psychedelia. They are a part of the Daptone Records family and have played with Charles Bradley, so their soul cred is strong and not in dispute. All that is well and good, but I can’t help but hear another, more ominous influence in their music that they may or may not be aware of: SATAN! And on April 10th, as part of The Heineken Transatlantic Festival, in Miami Beach, I witnessed first hand the funky call to our dark lord and it was thrilling.

The North Beach Bandshell is a strange venue for a big name act. It sits right off Collins Avenue, right on the beach and consists of a large patio with benches and a stage. When we arrived, Carlos and I were taken by the crowd of senior citizens and families with kids. We were expecting an ocean of hipsters, ironically drinking the Heineken. There were beach balls flying around everywhere and a general sense of a day at the beach, which as someone who has lived in Miami their whole lives, I actually despise.

There were three bands playing that night, but we got there well after the first one, My Deer, played. The second band, Puerto Candelaria, from Colombia, was not my cup of tea, but they were pretty fun, even if they seemed to play longer than I would have hoped. The good thing about this venue was that we were able to hang back until Budos was ready to hit the stage and then, front row was a guarantee. By the time they were getting ready to play, the crowd appeared to have changed somewhat and there were definitely more hipsters present, but still, it wasn’t to capacity, and that’s just fine with me.

I’d never seen a band this well-known do most of their set up themselves. But as we waited for the set up, I recognized each band member coming out and setting up their areas. Little by little the set was assembled and they started the tuning process themselves. You go to a show and want a certain level of spectacle and drama sometimes, but this was actually kind of refreshing. Instead of making some grand entrance, they were pretty much just there for a while, getting ready, and then once they were, they played, which is interesting since their opener, “Into the Fog”—which also opens their latest album Burnt Offeringslends itself to the kind of intro you’d expect from a more theatrical band. However, once those ominous, eerie intro notes get your attention and the slow, ritualistic build up leads to the dropping of the heavy, driving funk, you realize the drama is all in the music and there’s really no need for anything further because you’re about to jam hard for an hour or so.

Throughout the show, it was becoming more and more apparent that the guys were variously inebriated. But, as a testament to the caliber of musicians they are, this wasn’t in any way because the music was suffering. On the contrary. Maybe because they were loose, and in some cases, downright playful, it came through in every note. At one point, bassist Daniel Foder was messing with Rob Lombardo on the congas, by holding one of his hands as he tried to play. Now, mind you, Foder is doing this while also playing, with one hand, as he grabs Lombardo’s hand by the wrist, and I’m not sure I heard either one of them miss anything in any meaningful way. By the way, Foder’s style is a thing to behold. He holds the bass almost as if it were in upright bass, as he walks around the stage and does his version of Gene Simmons, but better. After the show, I interrupted Lombardo as he exchanged contact info with someone, and he confirmed that they were all drunk by answering my awkward “you guys were awesome” with “yeah, we’re all drunk.”

Overall, they focused on heavier tracks, mostly from the new album. In a nod to the families in the audience, at one point, Jared Tankel on baritone sax, dedicated “Ride or Die” to all the parents in the audience, and I’m not sure what that means, but I guess when we’re dealing with instrumental, metal-infused funk, there’s only so much context you can give. Then again, pretty much any of their dark, horror movie funk creepers can be about parenting, so I guess it makes sense.

This was a laid back performance and event. While there’s a lot to be said for that, I am left with the sense that was a sort of preview, if not a rehearsal. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it thoroughly, because I did. I left liking the band more than when I got there, which is always a good measure. But still, as refreshing as the lack of theatrics was, I kind of hope to see them again soon, in a different setting where maybe they can bring a different aspect. Maybe a small club, where it can get really dark and the lighting and fog effects can create a better sense of doom. Maybe, then, we’ll get a real visit from SATAN!!

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