Last Thursday, I went down to the TSU Underground Pub with a friend to kill time before our next class. A trendy dive bar ambiance makes the Underground Pub a cool place to hang out, and occasionally listen to some really cool bands. When we entered the large room, we were met with partial darkness, only broken up by blue and purple ambient lights that gave the whole room a stylish cool-toned glow. The luster was coming from the stage in the center of the room, which was mostly empty apart from a microphone, a drum set, and speakers. The upcoming occupants of this space were the members of local band Apollo Bebop. The four guys were sitting on the very edge of the stage talking, dressed in casual clothes. Graphic tees, jeans, and Vans let us know that they were cool, but you’d never guess just how cool… until they started playing.
After a quick intro that’s something along the lines of “Hey guys, thanks for coming out”, the room falls quiet. The band members simply stand in their positions as the audience anticipates the music. Suddenly, breaking the silence in the best way possible, the band’s saxophone player steps forward and plays a deep, funky intro. The crowd erupts into cheers and applause instantaneously. Right on cue, the rest of Apollo Bebop tunes in, playing their instruments in perfect harmony and with an innate enthusiasm. I noticed some people enjoying the chill vibe quietly chatting amongst their groups of friends and tapping their feet to the beat, while other students typed away on their laptops, doing homework to the jazzy interludes. On the other hand, the front row was a much more immersive experience. I felt like Ryan Gosling in La La Land as I jammed out. I could see saxophone player DeAndre Grover closing his eyes every time he belted loud, clear notes, lead guitarist Chris Trevor proudly smirking to himself as he executed difficult chord progressions, and eighteen year old drummer Donny Cruz exchanging glances with bass player Dominick Cruz as they played off each other’s solos. As the songs went on, more and more people gathered, and those who were already there turned to give the music their full attention.
There are two things that immediately stood out in this set. First of all, every person on stage was feeding off each other’s energy. The guys have an unbelievable musical connection, they all perform so well with each other and know exactly what to do next with just a nod or a smile from their bandmate. They are masters of nonverbal communication, and from the front row it was easy to see their passion and support for one another. This makes them a joy to watch, since their stage chemistry and camaraderie makes the music feel even better. Second, about 30 seconds into their first song, everyone noticed there weren’t any lyrics. No one payed much attention to this, since every song the band played had a different instrument emphasized, making for a uniquely captivating set. This performance was my first encounter with the band, and I didn’t find out until later on that Apollo Bebop usually performs with a rapper (who was unable to attend that day). However, the way they masterfully played their instruments and the way their music sounded felt absolutely perfect. As an audience member, I believe Apollo Bebop did a wonderful job of proving that they didn’t need words to get their point across.
Not taking into account the hip hop influence that would be coming from vocals, Apollo Bebop played a very interesting medley of soft rock and jazz. In person and on track, it’s very refreshing to hear this hybrid of styles, and the impressive way they blend them together seamlessly.
I attended a unique performance by Apollo Bebop, one that took place in a slightly academic setting and one that used no words, and still, it was insane. In my mind, I was transported to a packed House of Blues concert. This isn’t your usual jazz, and it’s not soft rock, rap, or hip hop either. Apollo Bebop has a sound and a feeling that can’t be defined unless you’re listening to it in the moment. I couldn’t do it justice if I only tried to describe it in words. What I can say is I heard the drums beating in my chest and the resounding notes of the saxophone in my head. Apollo Bebop has hooked onto something cool, invigorating and wildly interesting all at once, and I strongly recommend listening to them if you’re looking for some fresh new music.