Turkuaz Shows Off Theatrical Funk Mastery at Beachland Ballroom

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click to enlarge Turkuaz Shows Off Theatrical Funk Mastery at Beachland Ballroom
It's mid-morning at Scene Worldwide HQ, and I'm still thinking about last night's Turkuaz show at Beachland Ballroom. On a cold, drizzly Wednesday in Cleveland — and during another spate of horrific news in America — it was precisely the sort of concert we needed. I told you as much; hopefully you didn't miss it.

Once the lights went down at the old Croatian social hall, Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" soared across the house speakers. The band strode onstage, bedecked in darkness, and proceeded to equip themselves with guitar and brass, drum sticks and microphones. They opened with the recent tune "Nightswimming," a nice anchor on their latest album, Digitonium.

From there, honestly, the best way to describe the show is that each song had something to love about it. This band is relentless in the best way imaginable; songs flow into and out of one another, and choreographed moves bring a theatrical element to the setlist. There's jamming and there's incredibly tight compositional work on display. To attend a Turkuaz show is to be surprised often and hard.

Each member plays a unique role, which fits into the theater of it all. Frontman Dave Brandwein was last night adorned in his customary blue — this time via three-piece suit, hat and Lennonesque shades. He shredded a handful of guitar solos and otherwise presided over the nine-piece with looks of stoic pride and the occasional smile. Cool as hell.

Bassist Taylor Shell was fun to watch: In his orange gear, he stood atop the back of the stage and moved like a gyrating robot in time with his deep slap technique. He was leading the band most of the time in its rhythm, locked in step with drummer Michelangelo Carubba.

Sammi Garett and Shira Elias provided the feminine vocal energy up front, with excellent and endearing choreography. There was one song where they slipped bits of the "If I die before I wake" prayer into a bridge, leading the band into an absolutely explosive chorus.

One of the best moments in the show came during a cover of the Bar-Kays' "Holy Ghost." It's a cool and dynamic funk song, and here Turkuaz bleeds a glorious jam segment into a solo beatbox from baritone sax man Josh Schwartz. The lighting designer cut everything except for a spotlight on Schwartz as he dished a slick beat into the mic. Here's where things got interesting, though: Chris Brouwers and Craig Brodhead started keying very strange alien sounds into their boards, casting weird blurps and twizzles into the mix. Because of the lighting, the rest of the band was shrouded in darkness, which made it seem like Schwartz was making those sounds himself. The effect was astonishing.

The interstellar beatbox ended with a manic funk scream from Schwartz, and the entire band was illuminated suddenly as "Holy Ghost" rounded its final corner. Unbelievable. I couldn't help but laugh out loud during that moment.

Beyond that, it's really worth noting that Brodhead is a Northeast Ohio native. We've interviewed him before about his roots, and last night he took a moment to sing a little ditty to his hometown into a neat talk box device, with which he then led the band into another song. (Brodhead will join Aqueous' Mike Gantzer and Rob Houk for an improvised electronic jam show at Grog Shop Nov. 25.)

Opener Vibe & Direct is always a welcome addition to any Northeast Ohio bill. The crowd was treated to an appearance from longtime bassist Doug E. Funk, who has left the band to pursue a career in music education. (He was wearing a dinosaur costume.) Funk later came back onstage to share a quick verse with guitarist Michael Miller. It was a cool moment: the bassist appeared — now dressed in more typical neon colors — and worked a harmony with Miller before departing backstage without another word.

About The Author

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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