Being unutterably slick is far from Khruangbin’s only—or even primary—identifier. This, you would quickly come to realise if you were to attend one of their shows, is quite an achievement…because if coolness were currency, then Houston, Texas trio Khruangbin would be wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.
For their performance at North London’s Alexandra Palace tonight, Khruangbin are so absorbing that a room of 10,000 Londoners actually obey when guitarist Mark Speer suggests, several songs into their set, that we turn to our neighbours and introduce ourselve. Moments later, when he entreats us to shout the name of the person we have just met out loud, the hall is bright with a thousand voices. It’s something that may feel contrived should a different band ask, but whether because of Khruangbin’s Americanness or their music’s similarity to a communal mushroom trip, tonight it feels like just the thing to do.
Staging helps spread warmth through the towering room, with a sheath of crushed velvet and two giant disco balls giving the sense of relaxed maximalism—a style you can but too easily imagine is reflected in the band members’ apartment.
In a feature length set, Khruangbin travel through what seems like most of their released music, though even at 90 minutes long, the experience never drags. Each of these musicians are mesmerising in their skill: drummer Donald Johnson, Jr. is deadpan and almost unmoving, keeping it all together, Mark Speer reminds us all why electric guitar has such thoroughly erotic implications and Laura Lee slings her bass guitar with magnificent grace.
Coolness never takes precedent over a good time at a Khruangbin show: psychedelic chill zone or psychedelic party time, everyone here is dancing from start to finish. There’s a burst of joy when the band serve a medley of covers, including stylistic renditions of ‘Regulate’ and ‘Let’s Dance’, plus a spectacularly surreal play-through of the EastEnders theme song. Whether airing their more or less well known cuts, the audience is never distracted or despondent: you get the feeling that this is a room full of big fans.
Being unutterably slick is far from Khruangbin’s only identifier, but the fact that they radiate coolness certainly makes up part of this band’s unique appeal. Standing before them on stage is to be bathed in their good-time vibe and to leave feeling a little sparklier than when you arrived.
Issue Three of the Gigwise Print magazine is preselling now! Order here.