One week after winning their first Grammy Award in the Best R & B Performance category, Snarky Puppy appeared on stage in the University of Richmond’s Alice Jepson Theatre on Feb. 1.
The sold-out crowd of slightly more than 500 bopped along to the instrumental genre-mixing music of Snarky Puppy, and became particularly involved during the encore performance with some call and response humming from the band.
Bandleader and bass player Michael League also held an Artistic Viewpoint in the Gardner Lecture Room an hour before the performance where he answered a number of questions from an audience of around 50 people. There were shockingly few Richmond students at the Artistic Viewpoint despite the moderation by David L. Esleck, a professor in the music department who specializes in jazz.
“The band is primarily a live gig,” League said. “That’s why we made the switch from doing studio albums to live albums.” The switch seems to be working well for the band considering that the song that won them a Grammy, “Something,” was recorded as part of a live album called Family Dinner Volume I.
Snarky Puppy has a large stable of musicians to choose from, so the audience was noticeably delighted to hear from League that every person who was in the core of the band was there for the performance. The band has around four players for each instrument and the group totals around 40 musicians, League said.
Although Snarky Puppy is enjoying commercial success now, it was not always playing in front of sold-out audiences. “Our first gig was in the basement of a pizza parlor in Denton where we all went to college,” League said. The band formed in 2004 in Denton, Texas, where the members attended the University of North Texas.
League said there had been a time when the band sometimes outnumbered their crowds. So, he was excited to be able to play in a room as big as the Alice Jepson Theatre, he said. Snarky Puppy previously played in Richmond at The Camel, League said.
Esleck said his favorite song by Snarky Puppy was currently “Gone Under,” and that he really enjoyed the music Snarky Puppy made. As part of preparing for the concert, Esleck said he was having the students in the Jazz combo, booked as the black and white band, learn some songs by Snarky Puppy.
Joshua Tucker, a freshman music student, said Snarky Puppy was currently his favorite band, and was excited to be seeing them on campus. He said: “ What I love about Snarky Puppy is that their talent and sound is just effortless and organic soul. They can go from a ballad, to a funk groove, to an Afro-Cuban drum solo, and it’s all nonchalantly in your face and fantastic.”
Indeed, the drum solo was a highlight for much of the audience when the two drummers were given the stage to themselves.
Matthew Gizzi, Richmond College ‘13, attended the show with his father. He said his father had the tickets since Christmas and was excited to finally use them. He added that although he could not remember the title of a song that he particularly enjoyed, he enjoyed the band’s music. Gizzi said he had initially found Snarky Puppy’s music in the music library on the second floor of the Booker Hall of Music.
Nicole Pradas, a senior dance student, said, “Snarky Puppy is the perfect mix of jazz and funk.” She said she had enjoyed the show and that the band’s enthusiasm and infectious rhythm had the crowd grooving.
After the show, the band went out into the hall to meet fans and sign whatever was placed in front of them. One woman gave her phone to be signed by the band, and a Snarky Puppy member said this was a first for him.
When asked by an audience member in the Artistic Viewpoint about how Snarky Puppy would work to maintain its popularity after winning the Grammy, League responded, “I don’t give a s***.” He then clarified, “I want you guys to enjoy it, but I’m not going to change anything.”
Contact reporter Brennan Lutz at email@example.com