What CRSB does best is fill rooms with happy, dancing people. That is what they did Monday night at the Mint despite the freezing weather outside and the lack of a dance floor inside. Their infectious island-rock-pop sound got the three-quarters full club clapping, shouting and then up and dancing. Not bad for a slow night with 40 degree weather keeping most people at home.
CRSB – Chris Ramos and Sonny B – cousins from Hawaii who comprise the musical duo based in the San Francisco Bay have created their own genre, Island Soul-infused Pop and developed a strong following in NorCal and Hawaii.. They kicked off their first Southern California tour Friday in Long Beach at MaiTai’s and then took over the stage at The Mint in West Hollywood Monday night. They are booked at Bruddah’s in Gardena and will be on ActorsE Chat show Wednesday before they head back north.
The band arrived early and quietly greeted friends and fans in the back of the room while they grooved to Kerry Hart onstage. However, arriving early didn’t help when it came time to set up seven people – Chris and Sonny B on vocals and ukuleles, Nicky Rose (Guitar), Maurice "Reece Beats" Ivory (lead keys, bass keys), Rydell "Buju" Tolliver (Rhythm Keys), Carlin "CJ" Johnson (Drums), Brandon "DJ B-EZ" Fox (DJ) – and getting the multiple keyboards, computers, amplified ukuleles, guitars and drums connected and mixed right took about 45 minutes, so they started late and had to truncate the show to make up for it.
The words “Ya’ll ready to party?” reverberated throughout the room, signaling that the sound connections were made, the mix was ready (it wasn’t, but more on that later) and it was time for music. When the audience shouted back “yea”, the band gave a downbeat, started the drum and bass line while Chris and Sonny B. danced onto the stage in Hawaiian shirts and sunglasses and introduced themselves. The party was on!
Unfortunately, it wasn’t completely on as the band launched into its first song, a high energy “New Generation”. CRSB’s usually flawless vocal/band coordination got off to a slow start as Sonny B was forced to repeatedly signal the board op to adjust the mix on the fly and up the vocals so the snare drum wouldn’t overpower them. But the engineer finally got it right and the set took off and the harmony started flowing that only CRSB can do. Heads bobbed, toes tapped and the audience was now all in.
The duo kept it up through a high powered “Uke Melody” (Sweat, Old Fashion) that really drenched The Green Mint in rainbow island tones. The keyboard ratcheted up several notches and then built a platform for a high-end guitar solo that peeled paint off the walls. They were cookin’, dancing, laughing and almost bursting off the stage.
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As Chris and Sonny B slid into “Touch the Sky” I noticed a couple that had been cuddling the way back booth had sat up and started rocking out, waving their arms and loving the band. I also noticed that the audience seemed to be about 60/40 women. Chris and Sonny B noticed it to; they were singing personally, directly to the women and got in return nonstop shrieks, squeals and shout outs.
The beat keep on through “Usher Melody” (You Got It Bad. You Remind Me of Justin Timberlake) which also saw the duo tighten their harmony even more. The sound leaned toward traditional rap, but as with all things CRSB, there was a strong melodic presence and shot-through enthusiasm. When they started up “Cool Lovin”, they stopped after a few bars and told the audience to wait, wait, wait...until the shouting from the floor couldn’t wait anymore and demanded they keep going. They did and fired off one of the best songs of the night. Chris and Sonny B were bouncing off the floor, dancing across the stage while the band was in full-tilt motion like a long train coming downhill. As one man in shouted from behind me, they had momentum.
But wait, there was more; their #1 hit in the islands, “Give it Up”, kicked off. That was the signal to dance and almost everyone (and certainly all the women) were up on their feet. The head-bobbing drinkers that were three deep in front of the bar were bulldozed out of the way by shouting, cheering moving bodies. Others had snaked in between the tables to get close to the band. Anybody who was not rockin’ out was waving their arms or calling to the music. The room felt like an acid trip with everything moving and shaking and writhing around. Best of all, up on stage, Chris and Sony B were so, so happy!! I don’t think I have ever seen a live performance that pushed out pure happiness like CRSB did at The Mint.
When they tried to stop to make way for the evening’s last act, the audience would have none of it. They wanted an encore. After some hurried consulting, Sony introduced the band and said they could play one more, "Shaggy Melody" (It Wasn't Me, Nice and Slow by Usher). The room was full of girls going wild, with their boyfriends joining them as the band blasted out the last, last song and the whole room clapped and shouted and danced.
CRSB had done what they came to do, create a room full of happy, dancing people. Let’s hope they come back to LA and do it a lot more – in much bigger rooms.
Host, Music Friday