Bullhorn and Brass Knuckles

23 February 2018, Common Room, Hastings
By Nadia Kersel

Damn, Damn, Damn James!

I love my life.  I just got Brass-knuckled, Bull-horned and taken to church by Mista Monk.  Yep, just another typically unique night at Common Room, where a grateful and eclectic crowd embraced local band Brass Knuckles into their end-of-week jollifications.  Warming the space and the punters, with sensual and soulful sounds, Brass Knuckles brought on a stirring of smiles and head nods enticing us onto the dancefloor. When their set is done, I make a mental note to keep an eye on Brass Knuckles, as I reckon there’s more coming from them, and future crowds to stir up.

Common Room is the second stop on main act Bullhorn’s first short tour of Aotearoa.  Aotearoa, where we already value the beats-and-brass dance combo – think Salmonella Dub, Fat Freddy’s Drop, The Black Seeds.  It’s a confident step for this Brisbane-based band especially with their usual frontman, Roman MC away on tour. But, confidence is what Bullhorn is all about– the confidence of that one kid who chooses tuba as their instrument of choice.  For this tour, the vocal instrument of choice is Mista Monk (of Black Jesus Experience ) who slays the stage and any genre restrictions with his concise, conscious rap.

They’re well named – Bullhorn is a formidable sight on the Common Room stage. Seven horns, a drummer and an MC so carefully set up, I reckon it’s almost to the centimetre.  These guys are tidy sure, but one look and I’m certain they’re of the calibre that can turn any crowd into a hot, hot mess.  By the fourth bar of the first track, I’m proven right.  Bullhorn doesn’t mess about. Their in-your-face funk, soul, reggae and hip hop bricolage is a recipe for sweat and abandon.  The beats are impossibly crisp, lavished with lush layers of brass and punctuated by Mista Monk’s killer couplets.  Their set list is as tidy as their stage arrangement – a thoughtful and thrilling unfolding – mapped out for an utterly joyous dancefloor experience.  We’re wrapped tight within sounds and verbs that move body and soul through celebration and contemplation, to recognition. Bullhorn and Monk are a force. At one point they’ve got me jumping, eyes closed and reliving musical memories: the first time I got carried away by Wu-tang clan’s orchestral samples or Outkast’s brazen brass, or when I launched my younger self into the throbbing rhyme of Talib Kweli.  I wander home whispering to myself “‘damn, damn, damn James’….those cats were deluxe.  Deluxxxe even.”

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