“We’re a new band,” said Eben Kowler on Tuesday night at Icehouse, “playing our first show, at a bar. Thank you for coming.”
What was unusual about this particular bar band was that only two of its seven members played instruments onstage. The other five danced.
They’re the members of DaNCEBUMS, a group that came together three years ago and formed a creative partnership that’s stuck, bringing crowd-pleasing and athletic choreography to venues ranging from the Minneapolis Theatre Garage to the Walker Art Center to the Lee & Rose Warner Coliseum.
On Tuesday night, they debuted the latest iteration of a project they’ve been working on for a while: “creating this set of dances,” explained the group’s Kara Motta in an e-mail, “with the intent of performing them on the band circuit with live musicians in bars and venues.”
While the cozy Icehouse stage only left room for two players in addition to the quintet of DaNCEBUMS, two musicians is more than enough when they’re keyboardist/vocalist Eric Mayson and drummer Toby Ramaswamy. The performance featured original music: Mayson’s trademark blend of soulful pop with a dreamy haze, perfect for a rainy late-summer night.
To describe DaNCEBUMS’ style, you might say it’s the way you imagine yourself dancing when you’re out with your squad, feeling your look and turnt to just the right level. They tend to emphasize unison over solos or counterpoint (with notable exceptions, such as in a sometimes-stormy dance “written by” Motta), often building dances from cells of movement as in their signature One-Move-Dance.
The show was the fifth and final in producer Big Cats’ collaborative, experimental summer series What If? The curator DJed the night, holding down for an opening set by rapper Chance York — Mayson’s bandmate in the Crunchy Kids. In a futile attempt to wait out the rain before hopping on my bike, I unfortunately missed most of Chance’s set, but my Local Current colleague Cecilia Johnson reports that he played new music and “kept expressing disbelief that it was a Tuesday.”
Sometimes the magic’s just gotta happen when it happens — rain, snow, sleet, or weeknight.