Combsy at Second Street Brewery

Combsy at Second Street Brewery
Santa Fe, NM
June 16, 2018
Santa Fe, NM
Writer/ Photographer: Jake Cudek

Setlist: Joshua Tree, Black & Tan Fantasy, 1939, Villain, Una Esta, Times are Hard for Dreamers, So Long Uncle Walter, Chicken Strut, Versus

One of Santa Fe’s favorite watering holes, The Second Street Brewery, celebrated the art of craft beer, crab, and dads in the city. Hosting, The Second Street Brewery’s First Annual Pilsner and Crab Festival, at their newest taproom the event brought out both residents and tourists in droves. For the entertainment, the brewery tapped Tulsa jazz instrumentalist and genre-fusing gypsy Chris Combs, who was out promoting his newest album, Combsy.

Although this evening was the closer for the seven-week tour, the band exhibited fresh ideas and interplay that was easily detectable from any seat in the house. In speaking with Combs off-stage about how the band remains cohesive while travelling in such close quarters, he explained that the band is a revolving door of players that, at least for this tour, has been changed out every two weeks, utilizing artists from the midwest, south, and the Rocky Mountains. He continued detailing that through this practice he keeps his original compositions dynamic, new players contributing new ideas, while preventing the social hazards that can arise from extended travel. Combs says, “Touring like this is like being on three or four adventures, instead of one long tour of duty that can go awry, where everyone can have fun and is learning new things about each other and the music.” Rounding out this final leg, Combs enlisted New Orleans drummer Nicholas Foster, Oklahoma City bassist Stephen Schultz, and on auxiliary percussion, the lovely Liz Wattoff, who turns out to be married to Combs and is a proficient drummer in her own right.

The performance sound represented the studio tracks well and included opportunities for the band members to improvise in solo and collaboration. The single set covered almost the entire nine-track album, but also included some familiar covers including, “Black & Tan Fantasy” by Duke Ellington, Madlib’s “Una Esta”, and “Chicken Strut” by The Meters. Although one would expect that the patrons on this festive night would be focused more on conversation and beer than the music, especially with jazz for the running soundtrack, the truth was that most faces were focused on the stage during the performance and each piece was met with attentive applause. After listening to the studio album, the only thing that might have made this evening better was the missing horns section that add that extra hypnotic drone and punch to these varied pieces, still the auditory surprise, that Combs and his rotating cast create each night, will be as much new territory for you as it will be for the band.
Whoever they are.