It was another typical Saturday night in Boulder, Colorado. University Hill was crawling with weekend revelers, frat boys wearing their hats like idiots, freshmen trolling for house parties where no one checks ID, and throngs of music fans smoking cigarettes and talking it up outside the Fox Theatre. The crowd outside the Fox was a pretty good cross-section of Boulder society - a mix of tie-dye, glow sticks and designer jeans. Inside the Fox, BoomBox was waiting in the green room for their turn to take the stage.
But it wasn't their turn yet. DJ Rootz was warming up the crowd, and the dance floor was filling up fast. Only the dance floor was lit up as DJ Rootz stood behind his table full of electronics and computers, a ghostly reflection of light thrown across the edges of his features. The rumbling low notes, which could be heard from the street outside, filled the air inside the theatre with a sense of urgency, driving the convulsing masses wild. Then suddenly the lights came on, vivid and cosmic in their illumination of the scene, the visual climax to the opening act. DJ Rootz pulled out his cell phone and took a brief video of the crowd, who, like the lights, had sprung into a heightened ecstasy of their own.
When BoomBox took the stage some time later, the crowd had reached maximum density. This time there was no shroud of darkness surrounding the stage, but rather an explosion of smoke and lights in every color imaginable, penetrating the crowd in sharp rays. Zion Godchaux and Russ Randolph had, in only a matter of seconds, transported us from our world to theirs, a world ruled by thundering beats, funk-a-delic guitar licks and a lush electronic soundscape. It was truly a feast for the senses.
BoomBox, in case you were wondering, is a delicious fusion of old-school funk and new-school electronica that compels even the most stoic music fans to get up and move. Fronted by Zion Godchaux on guitar and vocals and Russell Randolph on drum machines, synthesizers, and everything else, BoomBox gets better every time I see them. Earlier that evening I spoke with Zion and Russ backstage, where they told me that they had stumbled across something big in only the last month or so. "It's kind of hard to explain," Zion said, "but we're in a new place live, and it's a whole new chapter." Maybe it's a new and better synergy on stage, maybe it's a tighter sound, or a new rise-and-fall dynamic, but whatever it was, Z was absolutely right – they had hit on something big, and it was magnificent.
Every time I see BoomBox, the crowd gets bigger too, a testament to the band's rising influence on the experimental music front. When people I know outside of the music scene talk about the band, they are usually surprised to hear that, yeah, in fact, I have heard of BoomBox. But the band is reaching a point where it should no longer be a surprise to anyone – word of mouth is a powerful thing, and BoomBox definitely gives you something to talk about.
Last Saturday at the Fox Theatre was a non-stop dancefest of epic proportions. BoomBox's mesh of traditional rock and roll instrumentation, vocals, and DJ style electronica create an entirely unique dance club sound. Zion's straight outta the 70's funk guitar was punctuated only by his brief forays into noisemaking a la a fun little DJ device called a KAOSS pad, and in these instances, it was like having a pair of DJs on stage. BoomBox gives you your money's worth no doubt, and after two and a half solid hours of crunchy-funky goodness, the crowd still wanted more. But BoomBox doesn't do encores – they play as long as they can and as late as they can, to the point where even if they wanted to, the theatre wouldn't let them come back out for fear of being heavily fined for violating the city's noise ordinances. The whole night was a roller coaster ride, suffering in the best way from the highest highs and the lowest lows, and hitting every peak and trough in between.
For BoomBox, the experience they create is as much visual as it is auditory. Zion, for instance, is quite the showman, dressed to the nines in feather boas, aviator sunglasses, multicolored patchwork pants, a furry fedora, hoop earrings and an über stylish fu-manchu. Perpetually bathed in multicolored flashing lights, both Russ and Zion take on the colors of the moment, making it seem as though they are fluctuating along with everything else. The crowd gets into the visual stuff too, and the dance floor was littered with glow sticks, laser pointers, blinking toys, and even a sound responsive tee shirt or two. It was a sight to behold as well as a sound to savor.
It makes for an exciting time when your emotion and energy are so expertly tied to the band's that the synergy in the room isn't just between the musicians on stage, but exists between every living thing present. BoomBox has a way of pulling you in, filling you with rhythm, and forming a deep and lasting connection. It is precisely this live momentum that keeps people coming back to BoomBox shows as often as possible. Zion and Russ are fully cognizant of this connection, and are developing new ways of recording their tracks for the next album in a live setting, using the stage literally as their recording studio in an attempt to capture the raw energy of the real thing on a CD. If their performance on Saturday night was any indication, the next album will definitely be worth the wait!