“Goooood evening ladies and gentleman” said a creepily familiar voice over the PA system. “We are tonight’s entertainment!” As an avid fan of The Dark Knight movie franchise, I knew the voice of Heath Ledgers Joker all too well. I also knew that following the sound of that voice, all hell usually broke loose, which is exactly what happens every time Brooklyn’s own Butcher Knives take the stage.
This was my second time seeing the multilingual gypsy-punk band. The first was at a CMJ showcase last fall where I was totally blown away by the bands energy and showmanship. Just like the first time, the band plundered, raped, and pillaged their way through an hour-long set at the LES venue Pianos in front of a rowdy shoulder-to-shoulder crowd. Made up of mostly immigrants, the seven-piece rock group brings their Moroccan, Colombian, Israeli, New Orleans, and New York roots and languages ranging from French, Hebrew, Arabic, and Spanish to create a unique sound and musical experience that only a cultural melting pot like New York City can produce.
They’ve been described as ‘Gypsy Jazz’, ‘Gyspybilly’, and ‘Pirate Punk’ since their inception in 2011. No matter what you call them, they dominate the stage and terrorize through each song as if they were the offspring of a violent relationship between Mumford & Sons and Flogging Molly. Saturday night was no different as they celebrated the release of their first full-length album, Misery, in typical Butcher Knives fashion. The album features hit-worthy singles in ‘Misery’, ‘Tell Me Why’, and ‘American Dream’, and fits an appropriate punk tempo from the first note until the end, as only one song on the album breaks the four-minute mark.
Following the appropriate introduction by The Joker, the band ripped through songs off the new album, including my favorite- ‘Misery’. Bassist Yoni Benshlomo, tore into an epic bass solo only a few songs into the set with his large stand-up double bass, which he loves throwing into the air with ease as if it were a toy. He plays next to electric banjo player Ethan Cohen, who has the riff picking and head banging ability that even Kirk Hammett would be proud off. The leader of the pyscho circus of course is Colombian frontman Nacho Segura, who commands the stage with his constant movement and powerful vocals.
It’s not easy to blend punk style bass, electric banjo, accordion, electric guitar, and keyboards together, but The Butcher Knives have successfully done so with ease, and have carefully crafted a new musical sound in the process. New York truly is the melting pot of the world and these guys (and girl) represent the best of their respective cultures to come out on top. Next time you’re looking for a wild Friday night with something new and fresh, go catch The Butcher Knives play a show, you wont be able to experience live music the same again.
Article by Tom Shackleford