Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Youngblood Brass Band excites fans

Youngblood Brass Band was back in town Thursday for a packed 18-plus show at the High Noon Saloon. The local favorites returned home at long last to give a tantalizing preview of their third studio album with a completely reworked lineup.

Is That A Riot?, the follow-up to 2003's center:level:roar, features a looser, more rhythmic sound, compliments of the newly-expanded percussion section. Snare-drummer, rapper and bandleader extraordinaire Dave Skogen remains at the center of the nine-member ensemble, but many of the original members have been replaced.

Virtuosic sousaphone player Nat McIntosh left the band, taking his mind-blowing chops and signature hip-hop sounds with him. It's too bad, since McIntosh's crazed solo runs and simulated turntable scratching were one of the band's premier attractions, especially during live performances.


Instead of trying to replace the irreplaceable, Youngblood has changed their sound along with their lineup. Is That A Riot? lacks some of the frenetic energy of the band's earlier releases, but it makes up for it with increased musical depth.

While Youngblood's previous catalog consisted mainly of catchy but similar hooks over hip-hop beats, their new songs are spontaneous and unpredictable. The denser rhythms and minimalist horn parts feature a dark, ramshackle charm that grows with each listen.

It's hardly surprising, considering all the innovations the Youngbloods already have under their collective belt. The band has done for brass band music what The White Stripes did for the blues, taking an old-fashioned style and mixing it up with a dose of modern aesthetic.

This isn't the down-home, old-timey brass band you'd find in New Orleans. Youngblood has already succeeded in adding a heavy hip-hop influence to their sound, and the newest material draws from even more styles, everything from swinging Latin beats to arrhythmic, free-jazz sections.

The band's new, eclectic sound was on full display Thursday night at the High Noon. The show started off inexplicably with newcomers Gage, whose traditional rock sound was as far from the innovative Youngblood sound as you can get.

The band was the very definition of a bar band, although it did stir things up a little bit with a slow song that featured chimes and finger-cymbals. Otherwise, it stuck to well-known musical territory with a set of average drinking music. Its so-called tribute to Bruce Springsteen, however, was more of a cheap rip-off of The Boss, to the point of being painful on the ears.

Gage was followed by the rap stylings of El Guante and MC Starr, accompanied by DJ Pain 1. The duo was an obvious choice for an opener, spitting intelligent lines in the vein of Skogen's Youngblood lyrics. Their lyrics railed against big business, Top 40 hip-hop and the war in Iraq, in a tirade that was angrier and less poetic than Skogen's dry rhymes.

When Youngblood finally emerged, the audience was more than ready to be done with the opening acts and on to the main show. The group opened softly with the slow-burning horn harmonies of "JEM" before exploding into the full-on intensity of "March," both songs off their new album.

A ripple of excitement followed the immediate uplift in energy as the band launched into "Brooklyn." The song, probably the best-known Youngblood tune, was recently covered at the Rose Bowl by the USC marching band.

Youngblood planned its set well, interspersing old hits with most of the songs off its new album. Slower songs were followed by heavy hitters that kept the audience's attention focused, always a challenge in the bar environment.

The group's new attraction is their three-member drum section, which pairs the traditional bass and snare duo with a third man on toms, high-hat and other drum sounds. This gave Skogen increased mobility, allowing him to put down his sticks to rap his lyrics on some songs.

The percussion section propelled slower numbers like the melodic shuffle "Ake" expertly and pushed the band to new heights on barnburners like "Nuclear Summer." They flowed together loosely on most songs but could lock in when needed, such as on the tight groove of "Bone Refinery."

The rest of the band was as sharp as ever, especially the two trumpet players, both of whom are original members. Their dueling solos were the improvisatory highlights of the night.

Toward the end of the set, the group did a tribute to New Orleans by playing several traditional brass-band tunes. Skogen was politically outspoken as usual, criticizing the rebuilding process of the city as only concerned with creating a "tourist trap."

After a blazing rendition of its oft-requested tune "Avalanche," Youngblood left the small stage, but Skogen quickly returned with a bag of homemade cookies.

"Who wants a cookie?" he asked as he tossed several into the audience.

The rest of the band soon joined him for an encore of "Headbanger," followed by the bluegrass spiritual "I'll Fly Away." Judging from the set list stolen by a certain enterprising reporter after the show, the band was ready for a second encore, but one was plenty.

Youngblood Brass Band had already shown that it’s back and badder than ever.

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