Stephen Lewis & the Big Band of One and Durians at Pepper’s

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Stephen Lewis & the Big Band of One and Durians performed at Pepper’s Pub on Saturday, Mar. 14th in a show that had the crowd at the local venue up and dancing the entirety of the night.

New Brunswick one-man-band extraordinaire Stephen Lewis started off the night with songs from his 2013 release “Peanut Butter and Jam,” as well as a fresh take on Young MC’s classic “Bust a Move.” His signature mixture of funky riffs, quick solos, beat-boxing, and lyrics that were at times half-rapped and half-sung, were expertly strung together through the use of a loop sequencer.

As he progressed from song to song Lewis gave off a generally lighthearted, happy vibe, best exemplified by his coming offstage to dance with the cheery audience.

After the set, Lewis stressed how important it is for him that people get involved and feel a connection to the music he plays, stating, “I only put in the energy that the crowd puts in it.” Accordingly, there was much dancing and beer splashing. I’m pretty sure there was also someone in the audience playing along with a harmonica.

Without a doubt, the highlight of Lewis’ performance was his final song, as the musician debuted a new tune for the eager crowd. The feel-good ditty with the chorus, “Dance with me, you drive me crazy,” was the prefect way to conclude the set.

If Lewis had the sound of an urban beach party, the Durians’ set is more like the party before, and during, the apocalypse. Their music can be best described as live dub-step with a trombone and a Black Sabbath undercurrent, with some reggae, and some pop, etc. The list could go on forever.

The Brooklyn-based trio powered through their set in what seemed like deep concentration, their focus broken only to introduce the band members and to do an impromptu collaboration with Stephen Lewis, much to the crowd’s delight.

For approximately two hours, including the song with Lewis, the audience danced along to the hypnotic interplay of Eli Chalmer’s trombone and keyboard, Nick Kirshnit’s MIDI bass guitar and Ryan Ramirez’ thunderous drumming.

Like Lewis, the Durians also strive to bring music and people closer together. According to Chalmer, the band is about making electronic music onstage rather than on a laptop, through the use of technology that modifies traditional instruments. And of course, with the use of actual drums, because, as Chalmer asserts, “we couldn’t be a live band without those.”