Eclipse Glasses. Photo by AiLien Draheim.
It was a very busy Saturday night in Little Rock. Amid Christmas parties and All Night Drug Prowling Wolves, Downtown Music booked three relatively obscure local bands – Egyptr, Velvet Kente and Eclipse Glasses.
Coming in from the cold, I wasn’t expecting much of a turnout and was pleased to find the venue comfortably crowded and warm. Welcome improvements have been made to the long-standing Little Rock punk establishment on Capitol Avenue. Not long ago, it operated out of a black box with a small stage awkwardly crammed into a corner. The sounds bouncing around that misshapen space were rarely agreeable. (In fact, the venue proudly advertised: “Sound so loud it hurts!!!”) The much-improved Downtown Music now occupies two spacious rooms and features a large wrap-around bar, proper stage set-up and ample square-footage for dancing.
For Saturday night’s show, Egyptr opened up with a brief four-song set. The newly formed Fayetteville-based trio primed the audience with meaty, math-rock guitar riffs, framing songs tightly then smearing them all around with deliberate disregard.
Next up was Velvet Kente, a four-piece funkadelic group whose upbeat reggae jams got people on their feet. The highlight of the set was a bluesy number for which the band’s spirited lead singer asked us to repeat after him as he called out the name “Josephine.” As voices multiplied, the chorus gained momentum, building in intensity, until the song’s wistful finale, which was received with roaring approval.