The Players: Jara Harris, bass, lead vocals; TJ Quake, rap, vocals; Alicia Contreras, vocals; Adam Smith, guitar; Alyse Harris, keyboards; Jesse Conlee, drums.
Material: Slapbak serves up funky, soulful tunes peppered with hints of gritty, distorted rock. Songs like “For Those About To Bounce,” which is inspired by the classic AC/ DC anthem, and “We Come To Jam” are driven by tight rhythms, choppy guitar licks and heavier breakdowns that crescendo into powerhouse choruses. Slapbak has channeled the two best genres of the ’70s: rock and funk. Doubled vocal lines help choruses catch on quickly, occasional rap verses add a visceral intensity and Contreras’ backup vocals seduce the listener.
Musicianship: Harris slaps, plucks and fingerpicks his bass—a rich, deep tone—with a purpose and forms a tight pocket with Conlee, who has solid time and a poppy feel. Smith holds down the rhythm on his Fender Stratocaster, but could solo more to emphasize the band’s jam quality. Harris’ keyboard is often subdued. Assertive playing can help fuse with Smith’s licks. Contreras has complete control of her dynamic vocal range and could be featured on more of the material. Finally, Quake is a hype-man and an energetic rapper, but he could work on Quake constantly elevated the crowd’s energy, annunciating to help make the vocals clearer.
Performance: It was a funky, sweaty night, replete with jumping, dancing and high energy. Opening with a soulful rendition of “Low Rider,” Slapbak took command of the audience and didn’t release them until the final snare. The band was obviously well- rehearsed, smoothly transitioning from one song to the next without hesitation. Harris’ dirty bass line gelled with Conlee’s expressive groove on “Pure Funk,” which hearkened back to James Brown in his prime era.
The band intermixed covers with originals. Quake constantly elevated the crowd's energy, encouraging dancing and participation. The crowd was incredibly responsive to “Fakin My Music” and “Never Fake The Funk,” which boasted a liquid bass line with melodic breakdowns, where sultry keys held everything together. After a voluptuous “Uptown Funk,” Slapbak closed with a powerful punch: the fuzzy, grimy “Payback.”
Summary: Slapbak brings the funk. The band writes solid material that catches on quickly, but could feature more solos. This well-rehearsed group is not to be missed.
– Vincent Stevens