Concert Review: Balkan Beat Box, March 10, Chicago Metro Theater

panic manual balkan beat box review chicago

Chicago – Chicago’s Metro Theater was literally shaking Saturday night with the sounds of tubas, saxophones, drums, accordions, cowbells, bongos, trumpets and hundreds of stomping feet as three gypsy punk inspired bands stormed the stage one after the other. The Balkan extravaganza started off with no-nonsense Black Bear Combo, a local Chicago five piece brass/reed band that started jammin’ on their instruments before all of their members had even taken their places. The band rolled out one punk rock/jazz/Eastern European inspired piece after another as the crowd started feeling the rhythms of the music – there was a particularly wonderfully mustachioed man adjacent to me who was skanking like a pro while the dude next to him was just straight up moving his hips in ways that I can’t even fathom. Not only did this band make sweet, sweet music, but as my friend pointed out, they were also all the perfect physical embodiment of their instruments, from the lanky front-man playing the sax to the more rotund gentleman on the tuba.

Palenke SoulTribe, an electro-Afro-Colombian fusion band, came out next, all in white suits and ties – indication one that I was going to like them. Indication two was that the front-man wiggled like his life depended on it, still managing to radiate charisma the entire time and with a huge smile on his face which was mirrored on everyone in the crowd. They had a video backdrop behind them, which included live video of the band and the crowd as well as an entire sequence of cartoon monkeys (during which the band donned chimp masks – if there’s ever a more appropriate time to wear a monkey mask I don’t know what it is.) Black Bear Combo definitely got the crowd moving but Palenke SoulTribe brought it to a whole new “no shame 2012 – dance your feelings” level. I came for Balkan Beat Box, and usually I’m all about the opening bands being timely and not overstaying their welcome onstage, but I was 100% behind the members of the crowd who were chanting for an encore from these guys.

Finally, Balkan Beat Box took the stage, toting instruments that weren’t even recognizable as instruments (for a good half of the show my friend and I were convinced that one of them was a torch that was going to be lit for a fire dance). Speaking of charismatic front-men, I guarantee you that Tomer Yosef is not leaving any crowd-member’s memory anytime soon. The lead singer was all over the stage, grinning infectiously and stripping clothing Eugene Hutz style throughout. The band kept up an amazing amount of energy throughout the night and they kept the energy level of the crowd up well into one in the morning. Balkan Beat Box puts on the kind of live performance where you find yourself yelling at the complete stranger next to you “this is awesome!” while they nod enthusiastically next to you yelling “I know!” as you both dance your butts off.

My advice is that you go see any of these three bands if you have the chance, and if you have the good fortune to find them all in the same location at the same time, you’re in for an epic night.

Posted on by Vik in Concerts

About Vik

Father and pop culture geek, Vik is Panic Manual's designer and contributor