Reviews

Chin Chin + Chico Mann + Rich Medina

Kristofer Ríos
Marquitos of Chico Mann

Chin Chin’s collision of disco beats, Latin rhythms, soul-jazz grooves, and straight-up funkiness was never once overbearing, resulting in a progressive sound blended with just the right amount of crazy.

Chin Chin + Chico Mann + DJ Rich Medina

Chin Chin + Chico Mann + Rich Medina

City: Brooklyn, NY
Venue: Southpaw
Date: 2008-01-11

Southpaw has long been a venue of choice for Brooklyn's homegrown music community: acts like Antibalas, the Budos Band, and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings regularly test their shows in front of its crowd. But it’s still rare to see anything truly enlightening -- let alone a futuristic, genre-bending dance party. Before Chico Mann and Chin Chin steady-rocked the crowd for 180 non-stop minutes, Philadelphia's DJ Rich Medina set things off, masterfully blending an assortment of funky, soulful nuggets. Medina kept the crowd warm while the stage waited for two of Brooklyn's most original and innovative groups. Chico Mann -- an afrobeat-tinged, synth-driven musical oxymoron blending warm analog sounds with modern digital techniques -- is as original on the stage as in the studio. As the chekere break to “Dilo Como Yo” dropped, frontman and creative mastermind Marcos Garcia took the stage, introducing his motley crew: Antibalas synth-master Victor "Ticklah" Axelrod, turntablist Telekinetic Kat, and sultry soul sisters Vinia Mojica and Mayteana Morales. Once introduced, Telekinetic Kat kicked in the drum break, and the crowd was instantly transported by the futuristic Cuban guajira to an ’80s breakdance party in Lagos, Nigeria. Together, the blended lo-fi Casio keys, warm digital synths, soulful Spanish vocals, West African Highlife guitar riffs, and heavy afro-funk break-beats hit heavy and transcended time and place. To those who may have seen Chico Mann in their first incarnation, the absence of a guitar and addition of DJ Telekinetic Kat were somewhat unexpected. The new arrangement reinvents the group’s approach, adding to the role of the DJ as a performer. Telekinetic is the band’s rhythm section; he cues and cuts in the drum line, bass line, and rhythm guitar with surgical precision and timing. Free from the guitar now, Garcia can freak out on the Casio and lead the vocals. Throughout their set, Chico Mann shattered multiple musical boundaries, but as far as the audience was concerned, it was a dance party -- the band’s funky afro-rhythms summoning everyone’s inner booty-shaker out and onto the dance floor. Once the crowd was hot and steamy, Chin Chin exploded onto the stage -- horns blaring and drums rocking. The space suddenly seemed too small. Enigmatic vocalist/keyboardist Jeremy Wilms was decked in a ’70s jump suit -- chest hair and all -- simultaneously a disco diva and space pimp. Electrified, Wilms seemed to be channeling the band’s full energy as he pin-balled across the stage. Chin Chin’s collision of disco beats, Latin rhythms, soul-jazz grooves, and plain funkiness was never once overbearing; the result was a progressive and modern sound blended with the right amount of crazy. With months of touring in Europe under their belt, Chin Chin weren’t so much warmed up as straight-up hot -- hitting tight cues and smoothly transitioning between songs; confidently and flawlessly switching from the breakneck drum lines and fast-paced guitar riffs of “Toot D’Amore” to the groovy basslines, soulful congas, and soothing horns of “Appetite”. Riding high, Chin Chin wrapped up the three-hour dance party with the scalding-hot “Curtis”, but not before Wilms got down Peter Frampton-style with a display of his talk-box. When the smoke cleared, the audience members were still drunk off Chin Chin, unable to stop their gyrating hips, as Rich Medina rocked them into the small hours of the night.

All rocking aside, Chico Mann and Chin Chin have stumbled upon a music that is fresh and original. While their sounds are distinct from one another, the two bands' music shares a common familiarity. Unlike other groups in the Brooklyn independent music scene, both Chico Mann and Chin Chin draw from their musical influences to create entirely new sounds. Their music cannot be placed; defying any attempts to box them into genres. The best part, of course, is that, while breaking down the sound barrier in their soulful sonic crusades, Chico Mann and Chin Chin have perfected the delicate art of moving bodies.

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