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The Greyhound

B Side Shuffle Shuffles to Baltimore


DC band B Side Shuffle performed their first headlining show in Baltimore on January 30 at the Metro Gallery. It was a homecoming of sorts for lead singer and guitarist, Geoff Browning, having attended Loyola, where he served in SGA and was a member of The Chimes. He openly contemplated the enduring influence of those experiences upon his return:  “I think there’s a direct line between [my work] when I was class president here and what I’m doing now.”

Student politics doesn’t necessarily translate to band politics, but the similarities are unquestionable. They’re both elaborate, “multifaceted” operations, with many jobs to juggle and parties to please. Both involve moving parts, the interlocking aspects that make up the full picture. As we spoke in the Reading Room around sunset, a nimble horn section was mobilizing in a Hampden practice space for the show to come. The band is a four-piece at its core, with guests often being deployed at different events, frequently assembled with little time to work with. Keeping it all organized may seem daunting, but Browning and company make it look easy. The band delivered a cohesive sound that evinced the effort of professionals.

Despite being proven on the road, the band’s first album is still in progress. Browning is thankful they’re about to record in a studio: The two EPs they’ve created were produced in someone’s kitchen and on a farm. Long stories. Like the time they were mistakenly booked as a Caribbean reggae band at a festival. There are many of these stories, which is surprising when considering the band’s short life. According to Browning, the band began after his experience at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in 2012, where he decided to go onstage like the artists he admired.  By some serendipity, a line-up had formed by the end of the year.

Browning often thinks about the perception of his band, and a great deal of his thinking is dedicated to figuring out the mechanics of the live experience. A concert can be more than a collection of familiar songs carelessly strung together. For B Side Shuffle, every show is an opportunity and a stage for something unique. Each setlist is tailored to conjure and retain the often evanescent energy of the moments, momentum is maintained. Too many audiences grow bored and disappointed during a show after being electrified. They lose the spirit to some song choice misstep or a break in the show.

The band knows that the crowd hangs on every note, and B Side does everything to keep that energy going.

The songs themselves are designed and arranged for this purpose; they have what Browning calls “dynamic peaks,” moments in which the groove escalates to irresistible elevations. The music would crest and catch all in its sweep. These musical manipulations were effective, believe it or not. My blasé head-bobbing was interrupted by some wildly dancing concertgoer carelessly bumping around.  Annoyed, I looked back at the offender and caught the room possessed. I was stunned by the apparition of this mass of people: The band had somehow summoned an army.

When the band launched into a cover of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River” (also popularized by Talking Heads), I knew they had gotten to me. B Side Shuffle could easily conquer Baltimore with the cool charisma and confidence they brought to this song. It’s a personal favorite of mine, and it was done faithfully, with the original flourishes needed to make it worthwhile.

I got caught in the rip tide soon enough. Despite the put-on nonchalance, I found myself amongst the throngs of people. Self-effacement is ultimately unsustainable. The rolling roars of the crowd undulated like a living sea. Soon you’re within it and never possibly without it.  A friend of mine doesn’t believe in transcendence, that these seemingly throwaway weekend nights could ever lead to rapture. But soon we all learned what it was like to lose oneself amongst the crowd, to be in the waves with all the others, to blur the edges of the foamy brine between us. With all our distinctions done, we crashed, crashed into ourselves. We crashed and crashed into ourselves.

Image courtesy of: The Greyhound / Cristian Margarida

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B Side Shuffle Shuffles to Baltimore