Show Review: Tribal Momentum, Eugene Kelley, and Hannah Drollinger – 5/17/2011

In preparation for their upcoming show at the Yacht Club (Saturday, May 21, 9pm, opening for Radio Moscow and Brutus), members of the new Iowa City band, Tribal Momentum, hosted a house party and concert Tuesday night. The event evoked the feel of a hidden carnival or a Gypsy fireside, where musicians wander through delighting the assembled. There were artists of music as well as artists of munchies; the wonderful Claire made gourmet treats to complement Hannah’s tasty sangria punch. Everyone there seemed to know half of the crowd, and the convivial atmosphere helped them meet the other half before the night ended.

Tim “Eugene” Kelley opened his set in the bedroom with a chant about corn, accompanied by the drone of a Shruti box and incidental percussion. His voice careers high and low with precise abandon, if that is possible; “Sarah” is a tune full our rough memories and ringing mandolin. “PTSDLAX” is a true tale of a man’s reaction to extreme trauma, and his frightening impact on those around him; Tim wails lyrics like “darkness within the dark” and “he’s like an open knife staring straight at me. His last two songs were lovely duets with the Bohemian Fiddler, Hannah Drollinger, who left listeners flabbergasted by her virtuosic fiddling. Eugene Kelley delights in using unconventional sounds and structures to communicate poignant observations of the everyday.


Eugene Kelley & Hannah Drollinger performing \”Petro Man\”

Eugene Kelley & Hannah Drollinger performing \”Polar World\”

Tribal Momentum is a new band, a five-some of diverse musicians playing polyrhythmic, wild blues. Their tight expositions drew a crowd into the living room of the ramshackle Victorian house. Hannah’s fiddle caterwauls over Gabriel’s earnest vocals, while the rhythm section of Abdala’s hand drums, Lucas’s bass, and Rob’s drum set keeps the beats moving. Tribal Momentum bears resemblance to classic blues/rock combos like the Doors, Led Zeppelin, or even the Black Keys, but the band adds completely new sounds and energy. That energy seems to be the most powerful factor in this group; they take the raw vibe of the blues and revitalize it in new, esoteric directions.

However, like many house parties in Iowa City, this one is visited by the ICPD. The band was asked to cease their amplified concert, but the crowd universally lauded the officer for his courtesy. Much of the audience dispersed, but this only served to distill the crowd; it reduced in number but increased in potency. The music returned, but more subdued and acoustic. The remains of the evening were spent on the lawn watching the fire dancers, Kyle and Julie, perform their mesmerizingly dangerous routines.

This show was exciting and friendly, daring yet comfortable, prepared yet extemporaneous, which pretty much sums up the personalities of the artists who hosted. I’d like to thank them for their hospitality, but I’d really like to thank them for sharing some phenomenal music. Catch Tribal Momentum at the Yacht Club this Saturday at 9pm, and catch Eugene Kelley at open mics and street corners around Iowa City.

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