Veveritse Plays Titanic Balkan Grooves at Barbes

by delarue

Thursday night at Barbes, Veveritse Brass Band played a characteristically intense, irresistibly careening show. Like Slavic Soul Party, who have weekly Tuesday residency here when they’re not on the road, Veveritse are a ten-piece outfit. Unlike their funkier, more hip-hop oriented counterparts, Veveritse are more of a jamband, sharing a semi-revolving cast of A-list horn players with other elite East Coast groups including Romashka, Zlatne Uste, Ansambl Mastika, Raya Brass Band, Hungry March Band and country outfit the Woes. This time out they had a frontline of clarinet, alto sax and trumpet sailing over the suspenseful hot-lava bubbling of the horns and trubas, propelled by the rat-tat-tat of the two drummers. It took about twenty minutes before people started to filter in from the bar in front, but once they did, they started to clap along and move their feet: what this band plays is dance music, after all. While these days it’s a stretch to assume that any well-dressed young Brooklyn crowd knows anything more sophisticated than, say, the Alabama Shakes, it’s testament to the universal power of Eastern European music. Who says everybody has to dance in 4/4 time?

A couple of Veveritse’s long, ten-minute-plus jams were pretty straight up rhythmically, but much of the show wasn’t, and that didn’t seem to phase anybody. The most spine-tingling solo of the night came from the clarinetist, who fired off what seemed to be an effortlessly supersonic chain of eerie chromatics. Alto saxophonist Greg Squared (frontman of Ansambl Mastika and Raya Brass Band) blasted through one shivery microtonal blitz after another…and who knew that Patrick Farrell, first-call accordionist for umpteen gypsy bands ,was also a more than competent horn player? Emily Geller took aim with a machine-gun precision from behind her big bubanj drum while snare drummer Luke Schneiders slammed out the occasional evil clash from his cymbals. Matter-of-factly but mysteriously, they made their way out of a cauldron of chromatics to a surprisingly chilly, low-key trumpet solo, a galloping triplet beat that swung back and forth between there and four-on-the-floor, and finally left the gleeful minor-key menace behind in exchange for a more lighthearted, blippy, Greek-flavored tune. Then they returned to the biting gypsy tonalities with a long, warm but wary solo intro from one of truba players, then the twin drums kicked in and they were off on another long vamp, this one with an especially anthemic, cinematic sweep. Then they took a break, something they deserved considering how hard everybody had been working. Which made it easier to make a graceful exit and get to the train in time before everything went haywire.

Because they share members with so many other bands, Veveritse don’t play a ton of shows, although they’ve been doing one at the Jalopy pretty much every month. And tomorrow, July 2, they’re at Littlefield at 9 opening for another excellent party band, Very Be Careful.