During January’s brutal winter, I searched for new music to curb my seasonal depression. Through the waves of friendly recommendations a few stood out, but one was captivating: Khruangbin. The band’s name means “Engine Fly” in Thai, paying homage to the band’s Thai funk influence. They’re currently slated to hit the festival circuit this summer, including Seoul Jazz Festival in Seoul, South Korea; All Points East in London; Best Kept Secret Festival in Hilvarenbeek, Netherlands; and Forcastle Festival in Louisville, Kentucky. The release of their second album, Con Todo El Mundo, has only expanded their reach. Every night of the album’s tour has sold out, including both Lincoln Hall shows last week.
Khruangbin took the stage with the perfect lighting, amplifying the chill mood they were about to set, and each member looked more majestic than the other. The first track, “Cómo Me Quieres,” delivered Phish-esque vibes that set the tone for the night. Drummer Donald “DJ” Johnson begins the track with a quick beat of the drum and smooth snare. His style of drumming looks technical yet effortless.
After a few songs and some crowd pushing I find myself sandwiched between two very different types Khruangbin devotees. Behind me is someone so loud and excited he could easily be mistaken for a Cubs fan. In front of me is a middle-aged couple who could’ve been on the Netflix show Easy. None of this made for a bad time, but at times could be a little obnoxious.
However it didn’t take long to ignore the outside interference as Khuruanbin’s sounds took over. A song that rejuvenated my mood the most during winter was “August Twelve;” the tranquil beginning got me through a dark slump, as well as the rest of their first album The Universe Smiles Upon You. Halfway through their night, guitarist Mark Speer yelled some direction into the crowd, “I need everyone to turn to the person next to them and introduce yourself.” Lincoln Hall briefly sounded a lot more like a game at Wrigley Field, not a Thursday night show, as people exchanged names. “Now I need you to ask your neighbor for $20,” Speer snickers and there’s a burst of laughter before the next song.
The band broke out into what appeared to be a Dr. Dre “Next Episode” cover-intensive medley. Khruangbin continued to put a twist on a few classics, making the crowd of head-nodders and the Cubs fan behind me ecstatic as the band followed up with Ice Cube’s “It Was A Good Day.” Their medley put each member’s talents on full display, with DJ’s brilliant drumming, Laura Lee’s joyful groove, and Speer’s flawless guitar work. Despite some fans being younger than the songs performed, they were enjoying it.
Khruangbin made a brief exit, but came back to deliver a few words along with an encore. I see Speer place a bottle on stage that looks Chicago’s much loved Jeppson’s Malört. “We received this from the venue and they told us to ‘enjoy our gift,’” Speer said with a smirk. They closed the set out with “People Everywhere (Still Alive),” one of their most popular songs from their first album. Khruangbin’s music helped me more than I thought it would this grimy winter and it felt amazing to see a band live that lifted my mood.