Stereo Crowd likes to label themselves as an “Urban Alternative” band. With a mix of inspirations including rock, rap, reggae and hip-hop, urban alternative is a good summation of the band’s sound and stage presence- both of which were excellent at the band’s show last night at The Knitting Factory in Williamsburg.
Stereo Crowd may not be very old (the earliest members have been playing for about two years), but they clearly have a dedicated fan base and a unique, eclectic sound that makes them stand out. The band’s on-stage chemistry enthralled the audience throughout their hour-long performance, and I was impressed too.
The Knitting Factory is a grungy little bar and concert venue in Brooklyn. When Stereo Crowd came on stage with their music, dress and stage performance, I kind of felt like I had stepped back into the 1980s when urban and hip hop music were getting off the ground here in New York City.
But as the show wore on it became clear that Stereo Crowd’s music is a blend of both old and new styles. Best described on their official website, Stereo Crowd is a “Black Eyed Peas style hip-hop combined with the amped-up angst of The Black Keys, the multi-talent flexibility of the Roots, and sprinkled with a little Soul and R&B.”
Stereo Crowd was formed about two years ago in South Harlem, when friends Paul-Anthony Surdi and Vince Ferguson (aka VFerg) decided to get together and establish a band after playing music together recreationally. “South Harlem really blessed us with a lot of creativity,” Surdi said.
Over time the band added members, currently two other musicians and two female vocalists, to create a core line-up of six members. They also have an “extended crew,” or other musicians and singers/rappers who occasionally share the stage with them.
While the band’s musicians created powerful beats and catchy harmonies, it was the female vocalists and guest rappers who really stole the show. Elle Marshall and The Dan, sometimes back-up, sometimes lead vocalists who belong to the band’s core group of performers, wowed the crowd with their stunning voices and engaged interaction with the audience. Guest rappers SciryL and George Twopointoh also offered very different rapping styles and voices, keeping the show diverse and entertaining.
The diversity of the show reflects what Stereo Crowd says is the ultimate message of their music: bringing people together through art.
“We’re a diverse band, we truly do come from different backgrounds, so I guess the number one message is to have a good time no matter what race, creed, religion, any of these things that separate human beings,” said Jamie Robinson, Stereo Crowd’s drummer. “Just put all of it aside and come out and have a good time.”
“ Stereo Crowd is the blending, the diversity of people coming together, it’s the far left and right channel coming together as one, and that’s just our natural state,” Surdi said.
Stereo Crowd may be growing in popularity, opening for performers like MC Hammer and Girl Talk, but as for now they only have one downloadable single. They are due to release their first album in late fall or mid-winter of this year, working with an international digital distribution deal.
While I would certainly check them out online, I would also recommend Stereo Crowd’s live performances. They put on a great show.
– Karina Schroeder