Photo and story by Anthony Merriweather / Contributing Writer
Lights were dimmed at Exit/In on Thursday night with light shining only on servers behind the bar and the instruments sitting on stage. Fans made their way into the venue after having their tickets scanned and ID’s checked, while bouncers near the entrance discussed a game plan for the sold-out show. Conversations filled Exit/In in only a short amount of time with the sounds and vibrations from music playing over the speakers meshing with voices of eager fans creating an ambiance of its own.
The conversations were disrupted when Leland Whitty, the saxist for BADBADNOTGOOD, began setting up his equipment and lit two sticks of incense on both ends of the stage, filling the air with a sweet and subtle aroma. Shortly after, drummer Alex Sowinski, bassist Chester Hansen and keyboardist James Hill filed out to their instruments with the crowd cheering as the band tuned up.
A beam of white light shined directly from the green drum set on an elevated platform in the back of the stage as Sowinski greeted the crowd with warmth. BADBADNOTGOOD have played in Tennessee once before the show Thursday – this past summer at Bonnaroo. Sowinski noted that this was the band’s first show in Nashville and expressed his excitement to be sharing the stage with his best friends.
The four-piece wasted no time to start their set, kicking off the show with “And That, Too,” the crowd-pleasing leading track from their latest record “IV.” Pulsating LED lights over the stage flashed a rainbow of colors across the faces of people in the crowd as they nodded their heads, tapped their feet and danced to the energetic set.
The band did a good job of bringing together a young and diverse audience for a night of rule-bending jazz. The band’s popularity is bolstered by collaborations with Snoop Dogg, Kaytranada, Tyler, the Creator and Kendrick Lamar, opening for jazz legend Roy Ayers and remixing other artist’s popular tracks.
In addition to an already-impressive performance with each band member displaying their prowess on their respective instruments, BADBADNOTGOOD’s improvisation kept the crowd entertained. Sowinski made it clear how passionate he is about the experience as whole. Not only is his intensity at the forefront of the band, but it also creates his engagement with the crowd. Several times throughout the set, Sowinski talked to the crowd to hype them up and at one point ran to the edge of the stage to lead everyone in swimming strokes.
Perhaps the most notable experience of the entire show was Sowinski having the crowd get as low as possible and counted off a jump for everyone in the room to go crazy for during the breakdown of one their songs. The performance was nothing short of exceptional with an atmosphere and energy that goes unmatched, and Sowinski’s final remarks reflected on just that.
“We’re celebrating life, celebrating love and bringing people together,” said Sowinski.
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