It’s a cold, rainy night – the first London has seen in months – and in trendy hipster venue Cargo, in the East End, a group of geeky, skinny white yanks and Grammy-Award-winning drummer Robert ‘Sput’ Searight are playing harmonically complex jazz fusion to a sell-out crowd. 400 people are rammed into the bar that habitually plays host to the friends and tiny hard core of supporters of local indie, folk and blues bands in a bid to help deepen a band’s descent into obscurity. But tonight the place is on fire, the audience of mostly musicians worshipping at the altar of one of the world’s silliest-named bands with all the restraint of a football crowd at a Cup final. This is 8-piece Snarky Puppy’s first ever show in Europe, and it sold out weeks ago, hosted by the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance and UK smooth jazz-rock legend Atar Shafighian.

The members of Snarky Puppy are some of the finest musicians around today, and they are just killing. Led by bassist, composer, arranger, educator, tour manager and all-round nice-guy Michael League, they lay down the most kick-ass, filthy-dirty funk, sounding like a fight between the Roots, Jon Scofield, Refugee, and Tower of Power. Their dynamic range, self-mixed balance on stage, and virtuosity are nothing short of phenomenal. They play tight, to say the least, but are never once boring, instead being unexpected, clever, fun, danceable, and they have every face in the room grinning for the duration of their set. After the show when the band mingles with the audience you could almost kid yourself they’re normal guys. But these are special people, an awesome band, and there is nothing routine about what just happened. Easily the gig of the year so far.

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