AP NEWS

Houston band Khruangbin a hit Down Under

March 18, 2019

Houston trio Khruangbin is finding success a long, long way from home.

The largely instrumental group — featuring guitarist Mark Speer, bassist Laura Lee and drummer Donald Johnson combining elements of surf music, rock, soul, psychedelia, film scores and ’60s Southeast Asian rock — has been a hit on its first tour of Australia which just wrapped Saturday night.

After debuting at WOMADelaide, the Adelaide-set spinoff of England’s WOMAD music festival, on March 8, Khruangbin headlined sold-out venues in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne and appeared at two other festivals, A Festival Called Panama on the island of Tasmania and Golden Plains 50 miles outside Melbourne.

In fact, due to the high demand for tickets, the venue was switched in Brisbane from the smaller Zoo (800 capacity) to the larger Tivoli (1400 capacity) and they ended up playing two nights at Melbourne’s Croxton Bandroom (900 capacity) and two nights in Sydney, at the Metro (2200 capacity) and the Oxford Art Factory (500 capacity). Initially, they were only set to play one night in each city.

Reviews were good with the Adelaide Review saying of the WOMADelaide performance, “Mark Speer’s squalls of guitar, layered in an appropriately lysergic shimmer of effects pedals are showy, but it’s the nimble bass tones of Laura Lee that are the core of the band…Despite the occasionally abstract moments, the trio also understand that like Cream some of the most thrilling moments are when the bass and guitar lock in on the same riff and bring it home.”

The Sydney Morning Herald, reviewing the Golden Plains date, was more enthusiastic, proclaiming “The festival highlight was Texas’ Khruangbin - a band that is hard to classify but very easy to like. The clouds may have obscured the actual sunset for their well-suited sunset slot but they made their mark from the first note. The largely instrumental three-piece brings jazz-funk, psych-rock, ‘60s Thai pop and world influences, virtuosic guitar work and enigmatic sex appeal all at once. Bassist Laura Lee carries herself with the mysterious poise of Twin Peaks’ Chrysta Bell; the severe Cleopatra wigs may not have been real but the groove most certainly was.”

The group next heads to East Asia with dates Osaka, Tokyo and Seoul next week before returning to the U.S. for performances at Coachella April 12-14 and April 19-21 and Fort Worth’s Fortress Festival April 28 where they co-headline with fellow Texan and Fort Worth hometown hero Leon Bridges.

Though there a few scattered U.S. theater dates on the schedule — opening for Vulfpeck at Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre for instance on May 9 — the band spends much of the spring and summer playing large outdoor festivals in Europe and the U.S.

No Houston dates appear on their itinerary but, after all of this is over, it’s perhaps time for a celebratory homecoming show.

cary.darling@chron.com