SXSW Music Review: The Comet Is Coming

London jazz-tronica trio sparks psychedelic soul vibrations

Being stuck in the middle of a peculiarly eclectic bill remains some SXSW showcasers’ worst nightmare. Sandwiched between the neo-gothic rock of Soft Kill and occult psychedelia from the Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Coven, electro-jazz groovers the Comet Is Coming simply shrugged off any potential cognitive dissonance and blazed down to business.

Photo by David Brendan Hall

The colorfully dressed London trio – keyboardist Dan “Danalogue” Leavers, drummer Max “Betamax” Hallett, and fast-ascending saxophonist “King Shabaka” Hutchings – skillfully mingled jazz with dance floor-ready electronica and rock concert dynamics without shortchanging the improv or coming off as gimmicky, like Eric Dolphy jamming with the Chemical Brothers.

The threesome did it without resorting to pre-programmed rhythm tracks, too. Hallett provided all percussive hits, sometimes in imitation of a drum machine, while Leavers made every synthesized noise, belch, and growl by putting fingers to keyboard. Hutchings added muscular horn riffs over his bandmates’ expansive foundation, sometimes sticking to simplicity and others pushing himself farther out.

If occasionally Leavers or Hutchings fell out of sync with the other’s groove, it only served as a reminder that human beings were making this noise, not machinery.

Pushing and pulling the tunes from majestic to greasy, scene-setting to storytelling, the band took the audience on a journey sometimes cosmic, ofttimes earthy, and always filthy with melody, spontaneity, and groove. By the time the first song finished, the crowd of post-punk hipsters, nerdy metalheads, and Red River partiers had come together and pushed toward the stage, eager to soak up Comet’s psychedelic soul-jazz vibrations.

The Comet Is Coming

Thursday, March 14, 9:45pm, Empire Garage

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The Comet Is Coming, SXSW 2019, SXSW Music 2019, Dan “Danalogue” Leavers, Max “Betamax” Hallett, “King Shabaka” Hutchings, Eric Dolphy, Chemical Brothers

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