It’s important to remember that the Field of Heaven was originally conceived as a venue for Phish. They headlined all three nights at the inaugural Naeba festival on the Field of Heaven. Since then, Heaven has become associated with something broader: authenticity as characterized by blues, soul, world music, and not just general instrumental chops.
In a sense, Khruangbin, the Houston power trio who takes Asian pop forms and dubs them up into infectious guitar music, brings the Field of Heaven back to its roots. Though not technically a jam band, their reliance on improvisational interpretations of classic pop feels more genuine, and the huge crowd that showed up for their Sunday night gig was proof of that.
It’s also important to remember that the band is not as serious as they seem. Guitarist Mark Speer and bassist Laura Lee wore what might be charitably referred to as space drag — he dressed top to toe in gold lame with pointed shoulders, she in a kind of white-red Barbarella getup. They also wear those matching wigs, making them kindred spirits with that other anxious pop artist who appeared this weekend, Sia.
As the grooves developed and pulsed the pair would occasionally resort to sexy coordinated moves. At one point, when partaking of what looked like cocktails, they toasted the audience without missing a beat.When Speer finally addressed the crowd, it was as the coolest hippie in the joint. “Hey y’all, we’re really happy that you dig this groovy sound.” Ok, well, that’s what it sounded like to me.
The point is that Khruangbin is not chops-oriented. They’d likely be laughed out of the jam band fraternity (though their drummer, Donald Johnson Jr., could probably get a job with any top notch funk or jazz outfit), but they understand the vibe that presides at the Field of Heaven, a place where the Fuji Faithful go to lose themselves in expansive music.