Material: The majority of the tunes performed by Chris “Volcano” Fortson and crew are originals taken from the group’s albums Graffiti Symphony and 90 Days. It’s a powerful and mighty blend of rock and hip-hop, with a heavy dose of funk and R&B. This is music that is lyrically vivid and strong; able to engage an audience on a journey through a vast range of emotions. And that diverse path spans the gamut from the smooth and jazzy cautionary tale “Slippin’” to the playful hip-hop party anthem “I Need a Freak.”
Musicianship: There is an endearing and noticeable sense of community that is present between members of the band. And there is always something exciting about the fusion of different kinds of players and sounds coming together.
Each member rises to the occasion and creates a sonic melting pot that illuminates the whole. In particular, Fortson lives up to his moniker. He not only has an imposing physical presence, but erupts with a vocal style that is equally impressive. Hype man Polk is a fitting counterpart and adds his own commentary to the mix as well as offering subtle harmonies where appropriate. The rest of the group craft a vibe that is structured around traditional chord changes and breaks, but leave a large margin for improvisation and going with the flow.
Performance: From the moment they hit the stage you immediately sensed an authority they brought to the show. And there was no denying that all eyes were on Fortson. He certainly took command of the stage; whether it was spitting rapid-fire poetic barbs or waxing soulful a la Bobby Womack. On many of the tunes he and vocal partner Polk took the time to interact with the audience and gave various songs their proper set-up. Early in their set they experienced some audio glitches, which interrupted things for a moment but they moved on undaunted. Also, DJ Yancy seemed to be creating an interesting audio wall behind what they were doing but his mix could have been more prominent.
Summary: Chris “Volcano” Fortson and the New Radio Standard are a force to be reckoned with. The rock/rap hybrid is something that has been going on for some time now. But sometimes that blend of cultures or styles can seem disparate or mechanical. This group makes it all work, with finesse, vision, hip grooves and strong marketable content.
– Eric A. Harabadian