Electric Kif: Simply ‘As Good As It Gets’
You’ve got ’em. We’ve got ’em. Everybody’s got ’em. We’ve got bands in our city or state or region so damn good they ought to be headlining at Outside Lands or Electric Forest or Austin City Limits or LOCKN’. Bands who deserve a set on the pool deck on Jam Cruise, a Meadow Stage set at Hulaween, or a set on the What Stage at Bonnaroo. Or maybe the Which.
Seriously that good. We’re talking about bands that just haven’t caught the right ears or had the focused management or something, that intangible something keeping them from the limelight.
Electric Kif is one of those bands. They belong in the conversation with bands such as TAUK and Particle, bands that obliterate whatever walls existed among prog and fusion and jamtronica. The Kif quartet is one of a number of outstanding bands such as Guavatron and Lemon City Trio from the south Florida area who tear the roof off every time they hit the stage.
Roosevelt Collier has often used Electric Kif as his touring band, and every time they rise to the occasion. They had a blistering set at Suwannee Rising in April, where we observed:
Florida is blessed with many great fusion bands, and we were fortunate to have Electric Kif on stage this time. In addition to their own sets, they have often backed Roosevelt Collier at SoSMP. Their rhythm section — Rodrigo Zambrano on bass and Armando Lopez on drums — are so incredibly tight, and Jason Matthews plays his keyboards of that platform. The star of the set may have been Eric Escanes on guitar, who was just killer start to finish.
They opened with “Labrats” and “Spider,” and from there the set continued to build. They were really powering by the time they got to“Weird Fishes,” “Little Louie,” and “Jefe,” at which point they tore the roof off the sucker with “Hang Up Your Hang-Ups.” And still they were weren’t done, saying good by with a truly spacey tune they claim was the National Anthem.
At Suwannee Hulaween, they upped the ante again with a stunning set, as Dalia Jakubauskas noted:
Miami’s own Electric Kif closed down The Campground Stage on Spirit Lake with audacious flare. Consisting of bassist Rodrigo Zambrano, keyboardist Jason Matthews, drummer Armando Lopez, and guitarist Eric Escanes, the power quartet served up a mashup of instrumental splendor with jazz fusion, synth rock and drum & bass electronica as key ingredients to their appeal. Their ferocious set was a display of focus and fearlessness that drew in dozens of revelers who could not resist the muscular, psychedelic grooves pouring off the stage.
No strangers to Hulaween, the band triggered a raging dance party where their performance was a demonstration of the kind of call and response shared by musicians and fans deep into symbiotic grooves. Dozens of curious revelers were irresistibly and happily drawn into Kif’s cosmic, “post-nuclear” vortex where they played a catalog of dance-inducing tunes including selections off Jefe, their latest stellar album released in September.
From the opener “Three Body Problem,” a magnificent dream ride of drums and synth-laden beats, and ending with “National Anthem,” an eerie climb through time and space, Electric Kif never took their foot off the gas. If you’re in Florida, you can catch them at Dunedin Brewery on November 16 and at The North Beach Band Shell in Miami Beach on November 21. Look for more dates to be announced, and click here to keep up with the band.
No matter how spectacular I thought those two sets were, the quartet blew past those with an outrageous three-hour romp at Dunedin Brewery on November 16. Kif blistered two long sets of music from their new album Jefe, some of their older compositions, and four brilliant Herbie Hancock covers.
It was appropriate, perhaps, that the first song out of the gate was “Digoism,” named for bassist extraordinaire Rodrigo ‘Digo’ Zambrano (appearing on 2015 EP Take Your Time). His work has always been extremely impressive, but he simply CRUSHED this entire performance. We were completely blown away. From there, they stepped into “Butterfly” (Hancock 1974, Thrust); Jason Matthews is a master at the keyboards, especially the synths, and he really nailed this one.
There was a Randy Bernson tune titled “Groove On” with a distinct “It’s About That Time” groove. “See You At the Corner,” from 2017’s Heist, was a different vibe altogether, allowing guitarist Eric Escanes to shred with abandon. Zambrano’s obstinato space bass allowed Matthews’ synths to dance, straight out of that glorious ’70s funk, all propelled by the amazing Armando Lopez on drums.
They grabbed “St. Germain” from Jefe with lots more guitar, then a deep prog-heavy tune called “Spank.” After the Jefe title track, they closed set one with “one of our favorite songs to play,” the Radiohead composition “Weird Fishes.”
The quartet were in complete concert when they returned for set two, opening with Jefe song “Three Body Problem,” beginning with sounds of a storm and packed with synths. Lopez went deep on “Havina,” synth-heavy and space bass all way uptempo. Their “hit” single “Little Louie” (from Heist) was a knockout, and then they funked it up HOLY SHIT deep. Well, that’s what my notes say; who am I to argue?
There were several more from the new album, including “King Paimon” and “Radio.” The room about exploded when the quartet thrust their way into the Hancock tune “Spank-A-Lee,” with Zambrano taking a great solo. Still, I contend that what he does during each song is better. Kif slowed it down, briefly, with a ballad named “The Birds”; Escanes again had the spotlight.
One of the most covered tunes in all of fusion is “Hang Up Your Hang Ups” (yes, there should be a hyphen in there, but there isn’t) from Hancock’s 1976 masterpiece Man-Child. You can find examples of all sorts, from the 20-minute live extravaganza on Hancock’s live album Flood to the Lettuce cartoon video with those things riding in the car. Jaden Carlson Band played a great one at Hulaween.
If somebody plays this song better than Electric Kif, I have yet to hear it.
Lopez kicked this off on drums before that tell-tale little “whee-dee” thing at the beginning, and they were off to the races. Matthews is simply stunning when he performs this song. Ten minutes later, we were rung dry.
And I always think: there’s no need for an encore. What can they do to top that? Not sure they topped it, but they dug one more time into Thrust for “Actual Proof,” which they played at approximately double-time. Jaws on the floor. What the actual heck? My mantra: AS GOOD AS IT GETS.
Bravo, Digo, Eric, Jason and Armando! Looking forward to seeing you “up there where you belong!”
[ONE: Digoism, Butterfly, Spider, Groove On, See You At the Corner, River People, St. Germain, Spank, Jefe, Weird Fishes; TWO: Three Body Problem, Having, Little Louie, Lab Rats, King Paimon, Radio, Tastemaker, Spank-A-Lee, The Birds, Hang Up Your Hang-Ups; E: Actual Proof]