Gig Review: Broken Brass Ensemble @ The Lantern
by Danni Gillespie

On the first evening of the Bristol blizzard, cool winds blew from Colston Hall. Was this the centre of the blizzard? A particularly gigantic snow drift? No, in fact it was the cool stylings of the Broken Brass Ensemble, blown in from Holland. The energetic eight-piece band blew the audience away (pun intended) with their rambunctious and high spirted performance. The self-proclaimed “urban brass ambassadors” combine many genres including funk, jazz, hip hop and soul to create a new take on the nostalgic New Orleans sound.

This band will move you. Seriously -- the audience were dancing from the first chord of the opening song. The stage was busy, filled with an array of instruments. The back row consisted of the bands rhythmic backbone:  an impressive drum set manned by the talented Pieterklaas de Groot; a sousaphone worn (literally) by Hendrik Baarda, played to brass perfection; and percussion (not limited to but including the congas, timba, djembe) executed to funk flawlessness by Brazilian Reinaldo Gaia. These three provided the funk and soul bassline for the evening and a great amount of dancing, both on stage and off stage.

"Broken Brass Ensemble were comical, energetic, and clearly having just as much fun as their audience."

The forefront of the group enthralled the audience with their obvious friendships on and off the stage. They were comical, energetic, and clearly having just as much fun as their audience. The front row consisted of two trumpets, two trombones, a saxophone and their highly enthusiastic and energetic players. Nick Feenstra (sax), Sjors Dijkstra (trombone), Arjen Attema (trombone), Luc Hudepohl (trumpet) and Joel Botma (trumpet) danced the night away providing soulful solos, striking vocals and a fun atmosphere. Luk Hudepohl and the frontlines harmonies left the audience a gasp with their rendition of ‘Baby’s Gone’ and got everyone rocking along to ‘The Unusual and the Unknown’.

The band’s comedic dynamic made it clear that these players had a great relationship both on and off the stage, which made it easy for the audience to get involved. During the first verse of the opening song the first round of audience participation began. This was a reoccurring theme throughout the evening. The band had the audience clapping along, shimmying from one side of the room to the other and chanting “before you die, before you die, drink a little poison before you die”.

OTB spoke to Feenstra and Hudepohl after the show, and when asked what three words they would use to describe themselves, they answered without a moment’s hesitation, “Energy, loudness and je ne sais quoi!”. Laughing when I pointed out that “je ne sais quoi” was, in fact, four words and not one, they stated that you can make anything work if you try – whether it’s a broken brass ensemble, or a small Bristol online culture magazine…

Their finale was one to remember. The band marched through the audience, brass instruments held high and feet a-dancing. The crowd was electrified; a terrific sign-off. The Lantern saw the octet clap, dance and even whistle their hearts out. This funky group is renowned for their performances on the festival circuit (including Jazz a Vienne, Secret Garden Party, Shambala and many more) and if you have an opportunity to rock along with them: take it, you won’t be disappointed!

Broken Brass Ensemble's new album Astonishing Tales from Beyond the Brass Dimension is out now.

Photo courtesy of Broken Brass Ensemble. 

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