Over the past two years, John Brown’s Body has been in transition. Since 2006, the band dealt with the loss of its bass player, Scott Palmer, to cancer; saw the departure of one of their lead singers and co-founders, Kevin Kinsella, and took a brief hiatus while their other vocalist, Elliot Martin,
had throat surgery. The band has recently re-emerged with a new lineup
(including a fresh horn section) and released their most successful
album to date, Amplify (Easy Star), which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Reggae Charts, made it onto iTunes’ Best of 2008 list and landed at No. 10 on the CMJ World Music Chart.
Now touring the United States, John
Brown’s Body visited the Lost for a high-energy show on New Year’s Eve.
During the concert, JBB introduced most of Amplify, a densely
packed record with heavily stratified harmonies, striking melodies and
advanced rhythmic foundations that tie in other types of music,
JBB’s refreshed sound builds on their
earlier, rootsier career, enhancing the sound of previously released
songs such as “Make it Easy” from 2006’s Pressure Points. On
the recorded cuts, the band has also added new textures to the mix,
such as strings on “So Aware” and a rap breakdown in the title track.
These complements provide even more richness to a band that already has
a three-piece horn section as well as Matthew “Kofi” Goodwin on keys to accompany the standard components of guitars, bass, drums and vocals.
JBB’s live sets are peppered with various effects that distinguish each show, improvised by Syracuse’s Jason “Jocko” Randall, the band’s sound engineer for eight years. Considered the official ninth member of JBB, Randall co-produced Amplify with Martin at his hometown recording company More Sound Studio.
At the Lost, Randall also played guitar with the opening band, Mandate of Heaven. This long-running project belongs to songwriter and frontman Greg Pier, who has put out a slew of albums, including Real: Devil Music, Arisen Eye is Feudist Fiend and Hun in the Sun
(produced by Randall), under the band’s moniker. Pier cherry-picked
from these recordings, playing grunge-tinged indie rock with unexpected
turns in composition that draw his songs apart from typical
Although the two groups seemed
incongruently matched, equal numbers of people bobbed their heads
enthusiastically for Mandate and danced profusely for JBB. There was no
break for the traditional midnight countdown; JBB just played on,
invigorated by the energy of their current lineup and updated sound. If
a ball dropped somewhere, it couldn’t be heard over the din of the
For more information on John Brown’s
Body, visit www.johnbrownsbody.com. For more information on Mandate of
Heaven, visit www.cdbaby.com/cd/mandate. For more information on More
Sound Studio visit www.moresound315.com/.