Eclipse Glasses. Photo by AiLien Draheim.
It was a very busy Saturday night in Little Rock. Amid Christmas parties and All Night Drug Prowling Wolves, Downtown Music booked three relatively obscure local bands – Egyptr, Velvet Kente and Eclipse Glasses.
Coming in from the cold, I wasn’t expecting much of a turnout and was pleased to find the venue comfortably crowded and warm. Welcome improvements have been made to the long-standing Little Rock punk establishment on Capitol Avenue. Not long ago, it operated out of a black box with a small stage awkwardly crammed into a corner. The sounds bouncing around that misshapen space were rarely agreeable. (In fact, the venue proudly advertised: “Sound so loud it hurts!!!”) The much-improved Downtown Music now occupies two spacious rooms and features a large wrap-around bar, proper stage set-up and ample square-footage for dancing.
For Saturday night’s show, Egyptr opened up with a brief four-song set. The newly formed Fayetteville-based trio primed the audience with meaty, math-rock guitar riffs, framing songs tightly then smearing them all around with deliberate disregard.
Next up was Velvet Kente, a four-piece funkadelic group whose upbeat reggae jams got people on their feet. The highlight of the set was a bluesy number for which the band’s spirited lead singer asked us to repeat after him as he called out the name “Josephine.” As voices multiplied, the chorus gained momentum, building in intensity, until the song’s wistful finale, which was received with roaring approval.
Afterwards, local collective Eclipse Glasses took the stage. The all-star ensemble boasts a who’s who of Arkansas talent: Andrew Morgan (Chinese Girls), Lorenza Harrington (Sugar and the Raw, Applescruffs), Kyle Carpenter and Zach Reeves (Tel Aviv) and Colin Miles (the Moving Front). Creating a self-described blend of “funk, soul, electro, Afrobeat, reggae and weirdo disco,” Eclipse Glasses also stirs jazz and gypsy folk flair into the mix. At the heart of it all is Harrington’s ardent trumpeting, which serves as the instrumental act’s unwavering voice. With every song, the band seemed to reach someone new. There wasn’t one person standing still. Feet shuffled; arms flailed. People got downright groovy. Though largely entranced in the music, I did happen to notice and look on in great amusement as two men – one dressed in a white top hat, sunglasses and tutu, the other donning skinny jeans and a confident swagger – engaged in a dance-off. Miles introduced the next song as the band’s last, but it didn’t slow us down much. The crowd kept at it, working up a sweat.
After a night of feel-good music and cheerful camaraderie, parting ways was difficult but inevitable. Christmas lights paved the way home.
It isn’t very often that I go to a show in Little Rock knowing next to nothing about the bands playing. It’s even more rare to find myself loving every minute of it. In the age of social networking as part of a band’s promotional efforts, only one of these bands, Egyptr, has a MySpace page (www.myspace.com/egyptr
) and currently no songs are posted. This will likely change soon, but until then the only way to hear these bands for yourself is to catch them live. Lucky you.