Khruangbin encourages us to stay close during a sold out Union Transfer show

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Khruangbin | photo by Dylan Eddinger for WXPN | dylaneddinger.com

Texas-based Thai funk rockers Khruangbin played a sold out show at Union Transfer Friday night and, without any introduction needed, they tirelessly played a 16 song set with practically no breaks. Pulling from their extensive instrumental discography, the set consisted of old tracks from their debut LP, The Universe Smiles Upon You, and their 2018 LP, Con Todo El Mundo. 

The three-piece, featuring bassist Laura Lee, guitarist Mark Speer, and drummer Donald Ray Johnson Jr., always play in such a signature Khruangbin style: sweeping, synchronized dance moves, electrifying, sudden guitar solos, grounding, funky bass notes, and subtle, almost imperceptible vocals. They have managed to completely set themselves apart in the funk genre that they’re almost hard to classify. Their vibe is just their vibe, which is definitely why they’ve sold out so many dates on the Con Todo El Mundo tour.

Khruangbin | photo by Dylan Eddinger for WXPN | dylaneddinger.com

One of the best parts about a Khruangbin show is the cool simplicity of their stage presence. Lee and Speer always dress in such awesome ’70’s inspired outfits, and to quote the person I was squeezed next to up on the balcony, “Mark Speer looks like the kind of guy who would casually call people ‘cat’ in conversations.” But it’s in the way they conduct themselves that makes their shows so mesmerizing. They stand almost still while they play, other than occasionally dipping their hips to the beat. They took advantage of the lighting as well, with spotlights flashing from almost the second they took the stage, washing the band and the crowd in a sea of turquoise and pink and yellow. The band didn’t address the audience often, but when they did, they encouraged both old and new fans to become friends and emphasized the importance of being close.

Khruangbin | photo by Dylan Eddinger for WXPN | dylaneddinger.com

Notable tracks from the night included “August Twelve,” “Maria Tambien,” which included a throwback to “(Apache) Jump On It,” and “Evan Finds the Third Room,” during which Lee brought out an old school telephone and spoke during the interlude. The crowd completely ate it up. They even threw in an incredible cover medley, featuring references to Dr. Dre, Sade, Ice Cube, and Kool & The Gang. There wasn’t a still body in the room during this mashup.

To close the encore, drummer Donald Ray Johnson Jr. played a solo piano version of “White Gloves,” and then the band came together again to play a new cover of the classic “Christmas Time Is Here” from A Charlie Brown Christmas. The first time I heard this one on the radio, I actually laughed. It’s such a fun cover and they did it so well.

Khruangbin | photo by Dylan Eddinger for WXPN | dylaneddinger.com

Khruangbin sells out their shows for a reason, and while we waited for the band to take the stage after openers Ginger Root, I overhead so many conversations about how excited everyone was and how awesome Khruangbin is. They’re truly one of a kind, and I encourage you to listen to their music so you understand the grasp they have on fans. They are forging an important path for instrumentalists everywhere, but nobody can do it as well as they can. Their style is inimitable and you know instantly that a song is theirs.

Khruangbin is wrapping up their 2018 tour on December 15th in Colorado, and your last chances to catch them nearby are Boston, New York and DC until they’re done for the year.

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