Live review: The Phenomenal Handclap Band

10 Mar

The Phenomenal Handclap Band played at The Bodega Social Club on Sunday 7 March 2010

Reviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

It’s been said a hundred times, but this band really live up to their name. On a dreary Sunday night in March, The Social was jumping to the sounds of NYC-based 8-piece disco-rock-pop-soul-hip hop-anything else you want outfit The Phenomenal Handclap Band, who delivered hugely unique and upbeat tunes and were tighter than John Travolta’s bell bottoms.

The Phenomenal Handclap Band

The Phenomenal Handclap Band

Starting life as a collaboration between two New York DJs, the band have grown into a thundering collective that, despite having the widest range of influences, functions as a tight and cohesive musical unit. They are retro in the best possible way, pillaging the best elements from their favourite genres and squashing them together to create an infectious blend of industrial strength dance-floor music.

Their instrumental introduction was a menagerie of genres spanning four decades, at first sounding like a lost psychadelic relic of Pink Floyd’s back catalogue before turning into a retrospective of music from the past 40 years. The evening was an explosion of funky, furiously energetic soul perfectly punctuated with New York attitude. With copious amounts of tambourine, cowbell, wah-wah, sweeping synths and soulful vocals they were undeniably dancable, fun and engaging – this was music that you can’t help but move to. They are clearly out to have a good time and make sure the crowd does too, and they do so with outrageously enthusiastic aplomb.

Their elongated breakdowns were daring but effective, stripping down songs to their barest elements before building them, as well as the crowd, back up to a crashing frenzy. They emanated with rapturous energy, grabbing the audience by the throat and bending them to their musical whims – so much so that the crowd literally begged for an encore.

Forget trance, electro, house or techno – The Phenomenal Handclap Band are truly dance music for the 21st century.

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