Last weekend and this past weekend, hordes of music lovers flocked to the Empire Polo Club for another round of Coachella madness. If you were amongst the sea of people in Indio, I hope you made it a priority to visit the Gobi Tent to pick up a dosage of BADBADNOTGOOD, the Canadian improvisational jazz/prog-rock/hip-hop instrumental trio (now quartet) that delivers the most heart-pounding live performance you’re likely to witness in the (relatively) little time you have on Earth.

Though, to be honest, seeing them in a setting like the Gobi Tent or on any number of festival stages can’t compare to seeing them in a smaller and enclosed space, one where the energy is more contained, the acoustics are better, and the display of virtuosity is more clearly seen, to the point that you almost can’t believe what you’re seeing, something so spectacular that your mind gets blown Scanners style.

Photos by David Fisch

I caught BADBADNOTGOOD’s set at last year’s FYF Fest inside the Memorial Sports Area, and while they dealt the undisputed knockout of the festival (save for Run The Jewels, D’Angelo, FKA Twigs…okay, there were a lot of great acts that weekend), I was quite a distance away from the stage and in a headspace of reverberation and echoing effects due to the openness of the large venue.

I don’t regret seeing experiencing them that way — they still played with an unbelievable ferocity, gave their gratitude to the LA jazz scene and Brainfeeder label with a medley covering Flying Lotus and others, and interacted with the audience as if they were family — but more than anything, that set made catching the band at a much smaller venue, only feet away from my eyes, ears, and soul, an absolute necessity. The Roxy Theatre was the venue I was looking for.


BBNG has traditionally been a trio featuring college friends Matthew A. Tavares (keyboards/piano), Chester Hansen (bass), and Alexander Sowinski (drums), but they announced on stage that they would be adding Leland Whitty as their permanent fourth member on saxophone. Their seemingly improvised nature is given that extra boost of badassery with this most welcome addition, as he links and locks the orchestral jazz element that’s been brimming in the background of BBNG’s otherwise mostly hip hop and prog rock-influenced sound.


BADBADNOTGOOD performed with just as much energy as they had at FYF Fest, but now with the ability to sonically rip the shirts off people’s backs, with favorites like “Confessions” and “Kaleidoscope” (off of their most recent and greatly praised record, III) going on for what seemed like forever, but that’s probably just because I got lost in their musical gaze, both audibly and visually.

BBNG’s crescendos from one “movement” to the next were rather flawless considering they were performing with dynamite. Hansen’s fingers seemingly contained no bones as he picked his bass with speed a radar gun probably couldn’t capture, as did Sowinski’s. Tavares played his keyboard like a madman complete with maniacal expressions, and Whitty owned his sax so much so that there was a point when he was playing it the way you would physically play guitar.


Though I certainly wouldn’t have complained if Ghostface Killah dropped by to rap a few tracks from their collab album, Sour Soul, I was hugely impressed and satisfied with everything BADBADNOTGOOD played. They previewed a couple of tracks that are going to appear on their forthcoming 2016 record, IV, which we are all eagerly anticipating.

BBNG ravaged through their 75-minute set with such a precision that they could easily rival the jazz/prog greats that roll through Universal City’s legendary The Baked Potato. As such, Friday night at The Roxy Theatre was the equivalent of seeing the future “greats” before they achieve legendary status. At their ages and with consistent and strong output, it’s hard to imagine where the members of BADBADNOTGOOD will go from here as they easily pulled off one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen.

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