In High Demand: Khruangbin Brings Their Unique Blend to North Brooklyn

Khruangbin performing live at Music Hall of Williamsburg on April 13. Photo by Peter Kirchhausen

With back-to-back sold-out performances this past weekend at Music Hall of Williamsburg, the East Texas based trio Khruangbin (Pronounced Krun-bin) is firmly making the case that a bands sound doesn’t need to neatly fit in a musical box to sell out music venues across the United States. Following the February release of their second full length album, “Con Todo El Mundo,” their fanbase continues to swell as was seen in North Brooklyn.

Khruangbin means “airplane” in Thai and pertains to their globe-trotting array of sounds and influences. The members originally met while playing in a local Houston gospel band, although they bring together a lot more than Jesus tunes. Their songs traverse a genre-bending array ranging from surf rock, 60s/70s funk, new-soul, as well as a plethora of global beats spanning the Middle East, Latin America, and South Asia. Think of Shazam on overdrive at JFK Airport’s Terminal 4. Or Bollywood meets a Quentin Tarantino opening movie scene.

The crowd was pleasantly caught off guard Friday night when the band upped the local ante by playing several anthems from local Brooklyn icon Notorious BIG as well as several other hip hop artists laced with their eclectic musical touch. For over 90 minutes, the dancing didn’t stop, with the crowds demanding encores on both nights.

The overwhelming majority of Khruangbin’s songs are instrumentally driven and lack vocals, although the crowd was happy to let the instruments do the singing, led by guitarist Mark Speer who switched between synth-soaked melodies and John Mayer-caliber electric guitar bursts. Bassist Laura Lee and drummer Donald “DJ” Johnson knit it all together for an unorthodox product that has little in the way of comparison, yet on both nights they left listeners superbly satisfied from one song to the next. Speer promised to play some of the old cuts, and some of the new cuts, but the crowd seemed hungry for anything the three had to play. The New Yorker’s music critic Matthew Trammell put it well with an interesting rhetorical question, “How could this weird idea, which snakes global influences across one another, coalesce so well?”

Just in case you have a plane ride ahead of you, visit the band’s website where you can curate your own Spotify playlist with songs from different artists that have influenced the band’s sound, tailored to your mood and the length of your journey. And yes, if after checking Khruangbin out you are left wondering if Mark and Laura Lee are wearing long black wigs, I can confirm that they are and their odd, wigged-out appearances have become trademarked looks due to their desire to retain some privacy while off stage. I asked myself that same question.

Mark Speer of Khruangbin Performing Live at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Photo by Peter Kirchhausen
Donald Johnson of Khruangbin Performing Live at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Photo by Peter Kirchhausen
Laura Lee of Khruangbin Performing Live at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Photo by Peter Kirchhausen
Mark Speer of Khruangbin Performing Live at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Photo by Peter Kirchhausen
Donald Johnson of Khruangbin Performing Live at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Photo by Peter Kirchhausen

About Peter Kirchhausen

Peter Kirchhausen is the host of Chilly Underground, a weekly news and culture radio program based in Greenpoint on Radio Rampa 620 AM. Previous work includes NPR, C-SPAN, PBS, and NBC Washington. Instagram @ChillyPeteBK www.chillyunderground.com

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