by Josh Gross
But if ever there was a band out there trying to make rock gloriously nasty again, it's The Constellations. Their show at Neurolux on Wednesday was one giant hip-grinding dance party both on and off the stage.
Their sound has roots in the gritty funk-rock of the late '70s, but it's undeniably modern.
It started with electric piano tones and riffs a la Stevie Wonder or Supertramp, with a foundation of ragged funk bass hits and simple, solid beats. On top were tremeloed guitar riffs, slightly grunty lead vox with a pair of female backup vocals, assorted percussion and synth leads. They even tossed in the bongo drums.
It was a great sound that combined the grit and drive of funk, but the space and atmosphere of contemporary rock, like if Phoenix or The Shins put out a Kool and the Gang album. It was also pretty awesome that the band paired serious eye-candy with at least three distinct genres of homelessness visually.
A few songs in the middle lagged, lacking the initial oomph of their opening number, "Perfect Day." But they quickly recovered with a gusty cover of Bowie's "Let's Dance," a song I'd previously hated for its chintzy sound.
And then came their blowout finale: A funky 9-minute electro epic and percussion freak out called "Step Right Up," that was every bit the terrifying combination of voodoo curse and dirty-dance music that Screamin' Jay Hawkins built his career on. And though none of The Constellations shoved a bone through their nose or emerged from a coffin, they brought a rare intensity to the Neurolux stage, groaning, grinding and pounding every last bit of drama out of the song just the way Hawkins would've.
"Thank you, Boise," the singer for The Constellations said. "I'll never underestimate you again."