The Underscore Orkestra at the New Paltz Cultural Collective

You know a band is good when at the end of their sound check the audience starts clapping, as the crowd at the New Paltz Cultural Collective (also known as 60 Main) did last Saturday night. The Underscore Orkestra was playing there and, having seen the band in Hudson, NY two weeks ago, I knew what a treat I was in for. I guess the sound check gave everyone else a glimpse of that knowledge. The line-up in New Paltz was slightly different than the previous weeks, but there was one unexpected similarity: Kip Beacco of The Blue Ribbon Boys, the band that opened for the orchestra in Hudson, was playing clarinet. As for the rest of the musicians, Jorge played violin, harmonica, and sang, Joe played sousaphone and electric bass, Cody played guitar, and a girl named Linzay played drums. Leslie, who played sopranino saxophone at the show in Hudson, couldn’t make it this time. I guess the additional members who were planning on playing couldn’t make it either, such as Willo who plays accordion and sings. No matter, the music was just fine as it was. Scratch that, the music was more than just fine, it was great.

Cody’s playing is distinct and sharp, and his hands move so fast they would challenge the speed of a cheetah’s legs. Jorge plays his violin with continuous fluidity, and as I said in my last post, drums and electric bass add a modern feel to the orchestra’s sound. The band delivered a whole bunch of swing tunes varying in tempo, bouncing from lively ones, to laid back jazz infused ones, back to fast paced spirited ones. They also performed some great Balkan folk tunes that were full of intensity. The Underscore Orkestra have their sound down to an art form, and that’s just what their music is — a form of art, and one that’s an interactive experience. You’re able to clap and sing along, and by the end of Saturday’s show the large crowd that had accumulated at the cafe was also dancing. I love being at shows were there’s a camaraderie between band and audience, and the energy between the two on Saturday was a delight. The band’s second to last song was one Jorge wrote while in Romania, called “Horamore,” and they closed their set with an instrumental. During that tune the band continued to play while walking to the back of the room, weaving through people along the way, only to return to the front to finish.

The members of The Underscore Orkestra are modern day gypsies. They don’t seem to need much, and are just trying to make a living as musicians. That’s a hard thing to do, period, especially when all earnings have to be split between anywhere from four to nine people. So please, do yourself a favor: go out and support live music! The joy you get will be well worth the price of admission, especially if the show is put on by The Underscore Orkestra.

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