As I walked into Black Cat and heard No BS! Brass Band warming up their instruments, it felt as if I had been transported down to New Orleans. A mid-February evening hinted at the coming warmth of late May, the brass sounds brought the smiles out of everyone present, and the cold beer quenched my thirst. But I wasn’t in New Orleans and No BS! Brass Band wasn’t from there either. The Richmond, VA band had plenty of their fans present to prove it.
On Saturday night, nine of the 11 band members spread across the dimly-lit stage. The powerful sounds coming out of three trumpets, four trombones, saxophone, tuba and drum set shook the floors. The tuba’s vibrating bass was overwhelmingly felt during the opening notes of “3am Bounce.” Other songs that stuck out included “Brass Scene Kids,” in which the lyrics spilled mysteriously out of a megaphone; “RVA All Day,” which made obvious who in the audience made the trip up to the District; and a cover of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” which was incredible to experience by an all brass band.
For an opening act, the crowd was noticeably large. Everyone clearly wanted more to dance to, and No BS! Brass Band brought it by ending with a classic, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
Once they left the stage, the fluidity of the crowd’s movement stopped and everyone split up into two lines: one for the bar and one for the bathroom. But within fifteen minutes, attention turned back to the stage as Sinkane walked on with his band. The keyboard’s microphone overpowered the vocals for the opening song “How We Be,” but that was the only moment of difficulty I heard the entire set.
Reggie Pace, Sam Koff and Jason Arce of No BS! Brass Band returned as part of Sinkane’s band. Singer Amanda Khiri had beautiful stage energy, smiling big and dancing proudly. Sinkane himself looked very zen, smiling softly back at Khiri and out into the packed crowd. His music instantly elevates the soul. His Sudanese roots were apparent and overlapped beautifully with a blend of reggae beats, funky percussion, and psychedelic guitar slides.
While Sinkane and his band played a few older songs like “Jeeper Creeper” and “Moonstruck,” the majority of the set was focused on the recently released album, Life & Livin’ It.
I really enjoyed the lyrics in “Passenger,” which focused on taking responsibility for one’s life’s path (“If I don’t take control, I might never make it home.”) Other songs that the crowd got especially groovy to included “Favorite Song,” “Telephone,” and “U’Huh.”
There wasn’t a moment I didn’t find myself tapping along to the beat or swaying in a trance-like synchronicity with the crowd. Three and a half hours passed, but I had no sense of time inside the Black Cat, a clear sign that I fell under the spell of these magical musicians.