QUINCY, Calif. — By the time this is posted, Con Brio will have High Sierra Music Festival in the rearview and be well on its way to Riverbend Live in Winston, Ore. It had almost no time to celebrate a triumphant debut at the Northern California event and instead will focus on their next shows; tweaking its set and “keeping their heads on straight,” as lead singer Ziek McCarter puts it.
And so goes the life of a musician, moving from town to town, festival to festival, looking for the fleeting euphoria of sharing art and happiness with others. This search is nothing new to Con Brio though, since forming in 2009, the San Francisco soul outfit has survived drastic changes to both their lineup and musical direction to steadily increase its fanbase through hard work and vigorous touring. The members of Con Brio are no strangers to the road.
The group is fronted by the magnetic McCarter. A true showman in the tradition of James Brown and Michael Jackson, McCarter’s stage presence is second only to his piercing, powerful vocals.
In the blazing afternoon heat of Quincy, a tiny foothill town 70 miles north of Truckee, hundreds of music fans gathered under the Vaudeville tent to witness the soul experience that had been all the buzz of the festival’s soul fans since the lineup was announced. Con Brio did not disappoint. The show was a shock to the senses. Its hits were heart-stoppingly powerful, the builds suspenseful and the choruses immediately infectious. The Hallelujah horns, featuring Marcus Stephens on tenor sax and Brendan Liu on trumpet, soared with McCarter while bassist Jonathan Kirchner and drummer Andrew Laubacher melded together to become a rumbling concrete mixer of a rhythm section, rattling the crowd’s bones, forcing them to dance.
Benjamin Andrews burrowed into the pocket with Prince-esque funk riffs and stayed there even when tearing through “Kiss The Sun’s” single “Give it All” sounding like a modern day Michael Bloomfield. But it was the group’s keyboardist Micah Dubreuil that seemingly brought all the elements together and presented the group as a unified front as opposed to a lead singer and backing band.
“When you’ve got chemistry, you can adjust to anything,” says McCarter “You know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”
When on stage, the seven-piece band moved and acted as one with fervor and energy and when I had the opportunity to speak with McCarter and Andrews, it became clear why: they’re hungry. This band has emerged through all the trials and tribulations of being a band as an unstoppable unit. A seven-headed monster.
“We were talking about wanting to play this festival last year. Now we’re here,” McCarter said quietly but with an intensity that matched his unwavering eye contact. Through an unforgettable stage show, well-crafted soul songs and a relentless work ethic, the band has carved out a place for itself in the festival circuit and the hearts of its fans. Both on and off stage, the members of Con Brio carry themselves with a swagger indicative of their inevitably bright future. Even as they tirelessly move from town to town, gaining lifelong fans every stop, they won’t quit. They’re too motivated and, as a unit, they’re just too damn good.