Part 6 of the 2019 Deutschtown Music Festival In Review
Gentleman Brawlers are a Brooklyn, NY six-piece outfit that draws influence from afrobeat, funk, and psychedelic music. They’re one of those groups that is so transcendent live that it feels almost pointless to try and describe them.
Once Princess Nostalgia finished up her set at Penn Brewery, I moved on to the Javor Croatian National Hall on East St. Not because I have any Croatian heritage, but because Gentleman Brawlers were about to begin their set. I hadn’t heard of them until the night before, but I basically knew that their music was funky and energetic; plus, I liked their name. They were already in full swing when I burst sweatily through the doors of the Croatian gathering place and made my way down to a plastic folding table right in front of the stage.
Two thoughts came to me immediately after sitting down and taking in the Gentleman Brawlers experience for even just a few seconds:
- “Wow, their bass player (I now know that his name is Trevor Brown) looks exactly like Steve Harrington from Stranger Things!
- “Wow, their frontwoman is a dynamo!”
The first thought isn’t so important when discussing the band’s performance, but the second is absolutely essential. By the end of the set, Becca Fox, the group’s vocalist and keyboardist, had basically turned into a blur of energy like the ones you sometimes see in old cartoons, one moment belting out high notes from the center of the stage, five seconds later laying down some spooky, atmospheric flourishes on a keyboard located stage right, all before running to her left and busting out a series of high-velocity dance moves. It was a thrilling display that served to elevate the experience from concert to one-person dance party.
The rest of the band behind Fox was more than up to the task of providing the soundtrack to said dance party. “Chatty Matty” Walsh played his guitar with a sense of focused minimalism indebted to the South African mbaqanga style, whose signature spurts of chirping, elastic guitar notes have since been popularized (appropriated?) by groups like Vampire Weekend. Jazz and funk also factored heavily into the mix, with Oskar Stenmark and Xavier Del Castillo providing layers of brass instrumentation on the trumpet and saxophone, respectively. Jeremy Warren locked everything down with a virtuosic drum performance. Gentleman Brawler’s playing is unbelievably tight, undoubtedly the result of years spent touring and honing their live show.
Some of the energy that I’ve described comes across in this video of the Brawlers performing “The Bullet” at Sofar New York in 2016, but you really need to see them live to fully appreciate them. Fingers crossed they return to Pittsburgh soon.