Crumb: Definitely Not Crumby Live

Crumb, Combo Chimbita, & Slow Pulp at Beat Kitchen on April 2. 

Setting out on their spring 2018 tour, the group of four musicians hailing from New York known as Crumb comes readily equipped with psychedelic jazz-influenced indie rock that really sets them apart from being just another up-and-coming band. Lead singer Lila Ramani’s smooth vocals paired with dreamy lyrics, laced with commentary regarding intimate thoughts and relationships delicately put into words – from “tell me something sweet and I won’t stay away” (Plants) to “I feel like the world is filled with people who can’t hear themselves speak” (So Tired) and “trying to stop but this feeling remains” (Vinta) – evoke a sense of nostalgia and sentimentality that is seldom found in such young artists. Not surprisingly, Crumb gained a considerable amount of traction after the release of their first EP, “Crumb,” in 2016, and have since hit the road on tour several times alongside artists such as (Sandy) Alex G, Hovvdy, and, most recently, Slow Pulp and Combo Chimbita. I had the chance to see Crumb a few weeks ago – with both Slow Pulp and Combo Chimbita – on Monday, April 2nd, at Beat Kitchen here in Chicago, and I did not want to pass up that opportunity.

I hopped off the westbound 77 Belmont bus at the corner right outside of Beat Kitchen at around 8:45 pm on April 2 – just about fifteen minutes before the show was scheduled to start. There were, give or take, twelve people inside Beat Kitchen’s intimate venue space at the time, so it wasn’t too hard for my friends and I to make our way to the front before the first of the two opening bands, Slow Pulp, took the stage. I had heard only one song of theirs – “Preoccupied” –  beforehand and was eager to experience it live. Grounded in rhythmic-based punk, Slow Pulp is self-described as a “dream-punk band oscillating between dream-like states and a frantic sense of urgency.” Released in March of 2017, “Ep2” is their first formal collection of songs since the addition of their second rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist, Emily Massey, if you can believe it; Massey’s vocals are “dream-like” indeed, and seem to be so integral to their style that it’s hard to imagine Slow Pulp without her. The laid-back cadence of the entire group juxtaposed with the multi-guitar intensity of songs like “Die Alone” and “Bundt Cakes” had me hypnotized, leaving my ears ringing and my heart pounding after their short but powerful set.

Illuminated almost independently by red lights, lead vocalist of Combo Chimbita, Carolina Oliveros, took center-stage with a commanding presence. Oliveros’ voice holds remarkable power – almost like a punch in the face, but in a good way. With a “cumbia-not-cumbia” musical style and guacharaca serving as their sound’s irreplaceable backbone, Combo Chimbita is nothing short of jaw-droppingly unique. The four New York musicians who comprise Combo Chimbita draw influence from Colombian and other traditional types of music to form their own spin on it, describing their style as “rooted in Colombia and based in New York.” Oliveros’ composure on stage was ethereal; she is extremely intimidating due to her insane amount of musical expertise, yet at the same time seemed to be so friendly and down-to-earth while chatting with the audience in-between songs. Their set left me breathless as I tried to absorb all I had just experienced…and to mentally prepare myself for Crumb.

As Crumb took the stage, cheers and screams and a buzz of excitement sparked throughout the audience within the now-filled room. Calm, cool, and collected, Crumb kicked off their set with “Locket” – the final song off of their 2017 EP of the same name. Beginning with an air of suspense and ending on a lullaby, “Locket” left the crowd in a dream-like trance. The musical ability of Crumb is crazy – not one member of the group is lacking in any amount of talent or skill whatsoever. They play with the competence of grizzled old veterans while retaining a youthful kind of enjoyment. Looking back at a sea of people singing and dancing and throwing arms in the air felt unreal; I can only imagine what it felt like to be the artist invoking this kind of impassioned behavior, especially so early-on in their success that I am sure is only beginning to take off.

The room cleared as quickly as it had filled, leaving the remains of an audience electric from the experience of the night and a floor littered with empty cups and cans. Crumb and their two openers chatted with concert-goers afterward, all of them seeming to be very down-to-earth, regular people who just also happen to make really amazing music. Although Crumb is done touring for the moment, I am sure this will not be the last we are hearing from them. Keep your eyes out for more shows from Crumb, as well as Slow Pulp and Combo Chimbita; seeing them perform live is an experience you will not soon forget about.

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