Gig review: Khruangbin at The Wardrobe, Leeds

Mark Speer is teaching the audience about the principles of funk.


The guitarist in Khruangbin (it’s pronounced Krun-bin) has already instructed bassist Laura Lee and drummer Donald Johnson to drop the tempo and get minimalist. Now he’s attempting to get people to understand the one beat. ‘One,’ he counts. ‘Two, three, four,’ adds the crowd unhelpfully.

By the time he’s decided the audience is beyond educational help, the gig has dribbled to an unsatisfying and prolonged close.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

This is unfortunate because up until about thirty minutes beforehand the Texan trio had lived up to their enthusiastic, yee-haw assertions to be a party band in an as yet unmade Quentin Tarantino film.

Predominantly drawing on debut album The Universe Smiles Upon You they recreate an effortlessly authentic 70’s sound with their mellow compositions, which are largely instrumental.

This is funk that’s been gorged on the shimmering surf music of The Shadows and the dark psychedelia of Jimi Hendrix. Speers’ fluid guitar playing is impressively tight, constantly retreating from the very edge of flash soloing, and is simultaneously familiar and exotic in the way it draws on Thai influences.

There are occasional glimpses of the last forty years in their set: the mid-section covers break includes a teasing slice of Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s sweet R&B ‘Whatta Man’ and ‘People Everywhere (Still Alive)’ tips a hat to Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s psych rock.

For the most part, however, the band revel in producing a retro vibe that’s perfect for escapist partying.