Saturday night's Gayngs show at the Casbah saw a packed house of lovers. For those who have seen this band live, there's a feeling that you're in love, and you're not quite sure what you're doing with your arms and legs, but they're moving.
The audience gracefully swayed in a synchronized collective that looked something like the wave in the bleachers and sporting events. Whatever understanding you had about this band as a parody, a side-project of a rotating cast of 23-plus Minneapolis artists, escapes you -- and all at once, this is very serious, smooth jam business.
Led by producer Ryan Olson, with the help of a few friends in Megafaun, Bon Iver, Solid Gold, the Rosebuds, Rhymesayers and Michael Lewis, consider this as Minneapolis' answer to Broken Social Scene. The crowd seemed prematurely elated by their production. Sporting novelty sunglasses, beards and hoodies, their presence was dramatic. "Gayngs signs" were thrown up in the air (see photo at right; two middle fingers shaped as guns, or two thumbs up, depending on how you looked at it), signifying a solidarity between band and fans. Lead vocalist Ivan Rosebud's buttery R&B vocals were slow and crooning, just as smooth bass tones came in, overlapped by sultry saxophone solos, brooding drums and layers of keys, synth and organ.
The instrumentation was dense; even the moments of oversexed autotune were redeemed by their tight performances, especially with the help of a female vocalist Channy Moon Casselle. Best known for her own band Roma di Luna, her impressive control was recently recognized with a Best Female Vocalist of 2011 nod from Minneapolis' City Pages. Wearing a sequinned outfit hidden under a black hoodie, she effortlessly executed her rendition of "Cry" an '85 single by Godley & Creme that was met with an overwhelming embrace of cheers, hollers and audience participation. Covers like Sade's "By Your Side" were peppered throughout the set and were followed by songs from Gayng's latest release, Affiliyated.
This is a soul collective, both in genre and spirit. The rousing and high-energy response to a batch of downtempo, soft-rock jams is a testament to their seductive live show. There's a clear objective in what they're doing, and it's got everything to do with making people happy. They finished the set by affirming what everyone in the room felt: "This was our best show all tour," said Olson, leaving the crowd in an onstage all-band-member hug. The Casbah certainly felt the love.
Nada Alic runs the San Diego-based music blog Friends With Both Arms and works in artist relations for the nonprofit organization Invisible Children. Follow her updates on Twitter or contact her directly.