“Who came to dance?” asked vocalist Steve Cooper of Spirit Animal. He was about to play a dance song.
Despite occupying a very full room at DC9 on Wednesday night, the crowd gave a very noncommittal murmur.
“That’s a tepid response!” Steve said. “Then, this is a stand-the-fuck-still song!”
I couldn’t help but chuckle. The entertaining banter is part of the Spirit Animal stage show, as they bring their party rock and carefree attitude to any stage they play. Spirit Animal then launch into “Party in the Back,” a new song from 2014, and along the way they manage to get the crowd to indeed dance along, starting with the people in the back of the room.
Despite their position as the opening band (for Paper Route in this case), Spirit Animal’s lengthy repertoire and charisma demand co-billing status of any main act. The audience cannot help but unwind when the prolific Brooklyn quartet take the stage with such good chemistry and crowd-pleasing songs. With their infectious enthusiasm and funky anthems, they are kind of like a young New Yorker’s answer to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Earlier in the set, Spirit Animal play BST FRNDS, another funky single from 2014. Steve dances across the stage, occasionally turning his back to the audience, prowling from side to side on the balls of his feet. Guitarist Cal Stamp crouches, hanging his lanky frame over his guitar, and together Steve and Cal explode into a ball of energy.
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The antics of the duo carry the stage performance forward with a great deal of audience engagement. Although relatively staid in comparison, drummer Ronen Evron and bassist Paul Michel serve as the anchor for their bandmates, laying down wave after wave of grooves.
Some of the songs follow a bit of a pattern, like one of their older singles “Crocodile Skins,” found on their 2012 EP This Is a Test. Steve may sing a declaration; Cal might back him up with refrain. The band plays a burst of funk and then there’s a bit of a melodic interlude. It’s during these moments they most make me think of my earlier allusion the Chili Peppers.
In the live performance of “Crocodile Skins,” drummer Ronen gets the spotlight as he thumps away during the song’s extended jamming while bassist Paul boogies down alongside him.
Spirit Animal are in DC so often that I actually suspected they were a hometown band before catching up with their Facebook page! The next show they have scheduled is at Santos Party House in New York on March 12, but they will surely be back soon, whether at DC9, the Black Cat, the Rock and Roll Hotel, or elsewhere.