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Concert review: Secret Bad Boy, Comrade Question and Happyness bring an unexpected lineup to Rumba Cafe

As one of the more popular local venues, Rumba Cafe often features touring bands coming through Columbus. If you aren’t already a fan of these groups, their shows offer the chance to see something surprising and new. When I walked into Rumba Cafe on Thursday night, I had never heard of any of the acts and had no idea what to expect. Walking out several hours later, I had discovered three new bands I was now a fan of.

Kicking off the night was Chicago group Secret Bad Boy, which, as described by lead singer Ben Joseph, portrays a “punky Hall and Oates.” Their lineup consists of a drummer, a bassist and Joseph alternating between guitar and keyboard, often in the same song. The band opened with an upbeat, guitar-driven indie-rock number, followed immediately by a nostalgic synth-driven ballad. These two styles aren’t exactly an obvious combination, but Secret Bad Boy pulled it off easily. Despite some rapid changes in style and tone, the band never missed a beat, which is especially impressive given that this is only their first tour.

“This is sort of the inaugural surprise tour for us,”Joseph said. “We’re just going from Chicago to New York and back, with some assorted stops in between.”

Up next was local act Comrade Question, whose music combines bluesy guitars and vocals with loud, fast-paced garage-rock. Along with bass and drums, Comrade Question features three guitar players, all of whom provided vocals. The band made full use of their lineup, adding intriguing harmonies and interplay over a sonic assault of guitars. The sheer volume and distortion of the instruments turned the three guitars into a psychedelic wash of sound that was almost overpowering. However, the lead guitar was swallowed by the other two and difficult to hear most of the time. The end result was the loudest and most energetic set of the night, full of howling vocals and scorching riffs –– anchored by steady but appropriately blistering drums.

Closing out the show was Happyness, an indie-rock act traveling across the pond from the United Kingdom. Happyness played a combination of melodic indie-rock and slower, quieter dream-pop in the vein of bands like Yo La Tengo or The Velvet Underground. Along with a drummer, the band featured two guitarists and a bassist who casually switched instruments depending on the song. There was also a keyboard in the back, which made an appearance in several songs to provide piano chords or atmospheric synths. Every member of the band made heavy use of effects throughout the performance, creating swirls of guitars and sounds that over the course of the set went from ethereal haze to walls of noise. Despite being decidedly less energetic than the preceding bands, Happyness managed to keep the crowd enthralled until the very end.

 

Overall, I had great things to say about all three bands on Thursday night. I didn’t expect to see three acts as different as these put together on the same lineup, but luckily, I still enjoyed them all. Although it might be a while before Secret Bad Boy and Happyness return to Columbus, I highly recommend seeing all three of these acts if you ever have the opportunity. Additionally, if you’re ever without plans for the evening, I suggest you visit Rumba Cafe. You never know what you might discover.

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