Toubab Krewe 11.16.11

The Bling Pig
Ann Arbor, MI

Words & Photos By Greg Molitor
(ReMIND Photography)

Toubab Krewe’s become one of my favorite acts since I started catching shows frequently. Consistency is a crucial element when you start to see a band multiple times, and over the past five or so years, the Asheville quintet had always been reliable towards not only meeting my prior expectations but raising the bar after each performance. Offering music that’s beyond unique within the jam community, they’ve been a breath of fresh air in what’s become an oversaturated, musty market.

On November 16th, I made the trip from Lansing to The Blind Pig for one more dose of Toubab. This show, however, would be different than those previous. With the departure of drummer Teal Brown and consequent addition of Vic Stafford on the same, the band’s sound didn’t exude the organic magic that had appealed to me throughout their previous tenure. It’s amazing, for better and worse, how a one member swap can drastically affect a lineup’s output. I couldn’t help but think how much I missed Brown’s drumming throughout.

Toubab’s charm, as evident within the first few tunes, had unfortunately eroded. Sure, the show had its enjoyable moments. In fact, the group’s version of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” was so powerful that you could hear a pin drop between the notes. For four minutes, the captivated crowd stood mesmerized by their performance of the traditional American folk tune, but this was an outlier during a show that was too stiff, less relaxed, and a far cry from Toubab’s previous efforts.

As the band worked its way through its West African meets Southern jam meets World folk originals, the pace of the music was brisk. Kora player Justin Perkins rushed through his usually beautiful passages in order to keep the beat, and the result came across as unnatural. The crowd didn’t seem to mind as many danced insouciantly to the quicker tempo, but those I spoke with who had fallen in love with the former lineup could notice a vast difference. Changing perceptions are inevitable throughout life, and with any change in membership, the new collective just isn’t going to be the same. Yes, I was underwhelmed for the first time at one of their shows. A letdown, however, requires a lofty original position, and for that, I have Toubab Krewe to thank.

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