Brooklyn’s TURKUAZ Packs Prismatic Power at The Fillmore SF (Review/Audio Recording)

A longtime adopted fave of West Coast funk and jam audiences, Brooklyn’s Turkuaz returned to the Bay Area on February 2nd with a scintillating performance, the krewe relying heavily on material from their most recent recorded efforts Life in the City (2018) and Digitonium (2015), but also reaching deep into their kaleidoscopic way-back machine. The omnipresent blooming colors symbolized the kinetic onstage chemistry between this nine-headed organism, and the theatrical-funk ensemble delivered a high-energy, emotionally-thrilling tour de force on a brisk Bay Saturday night. White-hot buzz band Paris Monster opened the show, a peculiar, a quirky indie-duo who brought a walloping sonic thump, one that saw many take notice of the fast-rising pair.

Alas, after a lengthy warm-up the main event beckoned, the return of the KUAZ to the Fog City streets. The brainchild of bandleader/co-founder Dave Brandwein and bassist/co-founder Taylor Shell, Turkuaz is nothing if not an anomaly in the music scene today. Born and bred of the Northeast jam scene, the group eschews the norm almost across the board; instead of long-winded solos and jammy segments that go on and on, Turkuaz places a laser focus on their songwriting and originality, and packs their power punch as a collective. This a true team onstage, delivering brilliant songs with raucous renderings that saw nearly every ass in the building start moving and grooving from the opening tones of (this writer’s favorite KUAZ joint) the bombastic “Percy Thrills, the Moondog”.



The thunderous low end was captained by the rugged and rumbling funk of drummer Michelangelo Carruba, who along with partner-in-pocket Shell kept the train rollin’ and rockin’ for the duration of the set. Vocalists Sammi Garret and Shira Elias flanked Brandwein and provided the salacious, the shimmy, and the soulful all evening long, presenting the soaring vocal harmonies that have always defined a major element of the KUAZ sound. Most of the tunes performed stayed in the five-to-six minute range, but a few they couldn’t help but bust loose: Future 86 deep cut “Electric Habitat”, which welcomed opener Paris Monster’s Josh Dion for a furious drum duel, unhinged into over nine minutes of chunky goodness, “Pickin’ Up” (Future 86), and “Monkey Fingers”, found on their seminal 2011 self-titled debut, both got their wings proper. First encore “The Ballad of Castor Troy” also stretched to seven minutes, and of course, the big finale “Lookin’ Tough, Feelin’ Good” (2011’s Zerbert) which drove the packed house into a dithers, a lengthy excursion in funkiness. The remainder of the tracks were economical in presentation, and the ensemble reveled in the sheer might of their creations.

As mentioned earlier, the instrumental solos and jamband tropes take a backseat in the KUAZ modus operandi, but don’t get it twisted, these are some killer players. Josh Schwartz, who flies high on the wing draped head-to-toe in purple – hence our nickname for him “Big Purp”- delivered some massive vocal harmonies and soprano leads, when he wasn’t crushing on the baritone sax. Craig Brodhead steers the opposite wing bathed in all-white, and is a crucial utility player, bringing A-plus guitar action betwixt his contributions on a veritable wall of keyboards. Chris Brouwers is a magnificent trumpet player, but also extends a hand to play organs and synths at the same time, truly a wonder to behold from a mere few feet away. Greg Sanderson handles tenor saxophone with authority, and the horn section in Turkuaz is unlike any other touring band. Each cat covers a base or the space needed for the specific tune – always serving the song- and with the exception of Josh’s monster vocal turns, the Turkuaz horns are a unit.

In addition to fantastic original KUAZ material like “Tiptoe thru the Crypto” (Stereochrome EP, 2015) and “European Festivity Nightmare” (Digitonium), the band delivered some celebrated covers that brought the house down. Local legend Sly Stone-penned “Babies Makin’ Babies” is always a riot,  and The Beatles “Get Back” really brought the Fillmore assembly to an emotional apex. Same for Talking Heads “Slippery People”, and even Turkuaz’s own “On and On”, which  illuminates the filial connection between the iconic New York legends and a contingent who clearly idolizes them. As noted in another review, the connection between Turkuaz and Talking Head Jerry Harrison was born from a Fillmore SF sit-in; and on this particular San Francisco night, KUAZ was the best in town.  Lucky for fans who did not attend this massive throwdown, the audio was  captured forever, and is available for stream/download, with special thanks to Turkuaz FOH engineer Zach Fichter.

COMING SOON! Turkuaz vocalist Shira Elias appears on *The Upful LIFE Podcast*! We recorded her interview during her stay in the Bay and did she ever deliver an engaging conversation. STAY TUNED!

words: B.Getz


01 Percy Thrills, The Moondog
02 Digitonium
03 If I Ever Fall Asleep
04 The Question
05 Make You Famous
06 Tiptoe Through the Crypto
07 Typa-Lika
08 The One and Lonely
09 European Festivity Nightmare
10 Babies Making Babies^
11 On the Run
12 Slippery People
13 Electric Habitat#
14 Life in the City
15 Pickin’ Up > Get Back *
16 Monkey Fingers
17 encore
18 The Ballad of Castor Troy
19 Lookin’ Tough, Feelin’ Good
^ Sly and the Family Stone
& Talking Heads
* The Beatles
# With Josh Dion of Paris Monster on percussion