Bonobo: This Primate Be Trippin’


The crowd at a Bonobo show can be broken down into two categories: Plaid and dreads. Okay, so that is mildly unfair to both Bonobo and his audience. There were other kinds of people there, but most of them had probably just finished smoking their ganja pipe and taking their weekly patchouli shower. The bar sales were also through the roof that night. Much busier than the Pennywise show. It’s as if the underground rave decided to pop its head out of the rabbit hole and migrate into downtown Vancouver.

That’s pretty much what a Bonobo show boils down to: an excuse for a giant rave. The most appropriate place for this down-tempo psychedelia/trip-hop would be Burning Man, in which case there would probably be a lot of LSD, MDMA and maybe some nudity as well. And a whole of patchouli. (And who knows, there may have been all three at the Commodore – I certainly wouldn’t put it past these cave-dwellers). But enough the people who embrace civilization once in a blue moon, let’s talk about the show.

I remember asking Dillon Francis about why so many folks believe all electronic music is the same. Clearly they haven’t been to a Bonobo show. After hearing his set, I get it, and am happy to report that electronic music is just as varied (if not more so) as folk and rock. Case in point: Bonobo, as previously mentioned would fall under trip-hop, perhaps with a little psychedelic influences (though at a much slower tempo). A set by Simian Mobile Disco (what is it with electronic bands and apes) is more analogue based with a dance/house feel. Dillon Francis is much quicker with influences of Reggaeton. Finally, someone like Skrillex or DeadMau5 harkens back to the old-school DJ’s, with a little bit of Dub-Step/EDM thrown in.

What I find most interesting about Bonobo is that he has a full backing band in addition to his own production. Several tracks off his album “The North Borders” feature vocals – including a collaboration with Erykah Badu. It’s an interesting dynamic as Bonobo almost remains in the background despite being the star. Yet, at the same time he is the mastermind behind all the sounds being thrown at the audience and is in total control the entire time. For someone who just recently started listening to electronic-based music, and is still learning to appreciate all its complexities and intricacies, I quite enjoyed both the set and is album. Right now, my favourite track is Emkay – the song is progressively simple, yet you can hear its layers.

Bonobos the chimpanzees are known for their high levels of sexual behaviour. Being at a show by Bonobo the musician creates a lot of sexual behaviour (or tension at the very least). Which I’m sure is perfectly fine to both Bonobo and bonobos. It’s a very different yet fun-loving and alcoholic environment. For now we know that at least once a year the underground comes above ground and show the rest of us how to have a good time.

The North Borders was released in April, 2013.

RIYL: Massive Attack, Nairobi and Barakas, Portishead

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