Live Review: Too Free and Exotiq Int’l @ Black Cat — 7/16/21

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Gideon Jaguar performs with Exotiq Int’l at Black Cat on July 16, 2021. (Photo by Mickey McCarter)

In a recent show at Black Cat, Sister Polygon Records flexed its indie dance muscles and revealed how it’s poised to keep our feet moving with the disco and funk of lablelmates Too Free and Exotiq Int’l respectively.

Sister Polygon of course was formed by members of post-punk rockers Priests. When that quartet dissolved, the label endured. Now label exec and former Priests guitarist Gideon Jaguar has a new outfit, the delightfully funky Exotiq Int’l. More on them in a moment.

On July 16, the show opened with the more established Too Free, purveyors of fine indie disco. Prior to the pandemic, Too Free were already tearing it up around town, demonstrating their dancefloor bonafides everywhere they could play. In February 2020, Too Free dropped the trio’s debut album, Love in High Demand, via Sister Polygon. The album tracks dominated the breezy nine-song set at Black Cat, as vocalist Awad Bilal got the party started with “Elastic” and closed the set with “Gold.”

Awad doesn’t have to rely upon experience as a dancer for Big Freedia to get the room shaking. He has energy to spare and a smile that makes you want to smile back. He’s ready to twerk throughout the freestyle leanings of Too Free, who appear as a duo this night. Bassist Don Godwin acted as a fixed focal point while Awad exercised his freedom, bounding around the stage and keeping spirits high. And the gently crowded room at Black Cat remained elated throughout the night.

Stream “Elastic” by Too Free on YouTube:

Too Free may owe a debt to the ’70s with its R&B melodies and DIY ethos. So too then does Exotiq Int’l but for funk tinged with psychedelia. Exotiq Int’l is a new band from Gideon (Priests), Laura Harris (Ex Hex), Niko Rao (Bottled Up), and Dajando Smith (Nag Champa). They make a fine quartet — the bandmates really click and mesh well together. Still, Gideon was worth the price of admission all by himself.

The red-hot guitarist still has the riffs and the energy you may recall from Priests. Across at least six very catchy tunes on July 16, Gideon gleefully threw himself into the music. He’s the sort of person who very much comes alive with his guitar in his hand, and he moves and grooves with a sense of fun but also with an air of gravitas. This is the most important thing he could possibly be doing right now, and you must pay very close attention so as to not miss any of the weight of these masterful licks.

When Gideon threw his guitar hip forward, he liberated not only the hooks but also a little bit of our souls, now awash in captivating rhythms.

Stream “The Pump” by Exotiq Int’l on Bandcamp:

Drummer Laura was also responsible for much of the band’s irresistible funk at the Black Cat. Guitarist Niko added some very laidback attitude and keyboardist Dajando was very earnest but really quite cool from his seat behind his Moog. In this initial outing, Exotiq Int’l revealed they have a lot of potential and perhaps more surprises up their sleeves.

Here are some photos of Too Free performing at Black Cat on July 16, 2021.

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Here are some photos of Exotiq Int’l performing at Black Cat on July 16, 2021.

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