On 21 October Manchester’s Deaf Institute welcomed the Texan Thai funk-blues three piece Khruangbin, with support from Horsebeach. Fans from across the region, who appeared to have had debut album The Universe Smiles Upon You on repeat, turned up for an evening of funky relaxation.
Horsebeach, hailing from Manchester, produced an indie pop-rock blend clearly influenced by nineties bands like Nirvana, Oasis and The Smiths. Aside from some technical difficulties the band played an accomplished set but their slow and dreamy catalogue didn’t quite capture the audience’s attention. A solid but essentially underwhelming performance and an odd choice of support band for the funk and groove-driven sound of the main act, which provided an entirely different experience.
Khruangbin’s unmistakable sound captivated the audience throughout. Their name translates from Thai to |engine fly”, and the band powered through their set with the momentum of Concorde. Mark Speer (guitar) instantly commanded the audience’s attention with his Texan drawl before the band launched straight into August Twelve, one of the funkier numbers from their album. Laura Lee (bass) laid down her signature slick bass lines throughout the night and Donald Johnson (drums) created a solid, jazzy foundation with his deft shuffle and rhythms, which displayed a masterful understanding of his instrument.
The band, as well as performing the majority of their back catalogue, gave a lesson in funk history, playing famous drum breaks, notably James Brown’s the Funky Drummer (one of the most sampled drum breaks in the world), and laying out the foundations of a song while improvising over them. It was not with an air of arrogance but instead a genuine passion for their craft and performance.
Other tracks from their fantastic debut album went down just as well, with everyone singing along to White Gloves and swaying to earlier releases such as the The Infamous Bill. It’s not easy for an instrumental three piece to perform to a large crowd and engage the audience effectively but the band successfully captivated the attention of every person in attendance at the packed venue. The only negative? That I didn’t have tickets to see them the following night of the tour as well.