Square Roots Festival: Taj Weeks, Debo Band, Lydia Loveless, Squid Pro Quo, Shault, Israel Nash, and others | Lincoln between Montrose and Wilson | Fairs & Festivals | Chicago Reader
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click to enlarge Debo Band

Debo Band

Jacob Blickenstaff

Square Roots Festival: Taj Weeks, Debo Band, Lydia Loveless, Squid Pro Quo, Shault, Israel Nash, and others 

When: Sat., July 9, 12 p.m. 2016
Price: $10 suggested donation, $5 suggested donation kids and seniors, $20 suggested donation families
For ten years Boston’s 11-member Debo Band has devoted itself to golden-age Ethiopian pop, which combines traditional scales and vocal styles with Western soul, funk, and rock. On their second full-length, Ere Gobez (FPE Records), front man Bruck Tesfaye enlivens his hoarse, athletic singing with a tense quaver, vaulting gracefully into his reedy upper register; the large leaps built into the music’s pentatonic scales give the melodies a daredevil energy, simultaneously suspenseful and celebratory. Electric guitar chatters and slashes, accordion surges and flutters, and plump sousaphone dance in tandem with electric bass, braided together into a lively counterweight to Debo’s joyous massed horns and strings. Frothy and extroverted, the front line has the feel of a crowd that’s always almost unraveling, reminiscent of the gang soloing in Dixieland or Balkan brass bands. The bubbly, sinuous rhythms alternate between swaying, waltzlike three-beat groupings and funky, rocking twos, often overlaid atop each other. Licks and riffs cycle independently, and you can take your pick of which to follow—it’s like the friendly bustle of a dance floor, where there’s always someone to lead you no matter where you turn. When I saw Debo play Summerdance in 2011, they were joined by Ethiopian folkloric group Fendika, who invited onstage a crowd of children from the expat families who’d come out—watching those kids bounce through the traditional steps was the most adorable thing I’d seen in months. Saxophonist and bandleader Danny Mekonnen says Fendika won’t be along this time—the current eight-piece touring lineup includes a second sax, electric and five-string violins, guitar, bass, and drums. But it shouldn’t be any trouble for us to make the party happen ourselves.
— Philip Montoro

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