Written by: Jeff Modzelewski

Photo Credit: Austin Chappell Imagery

The instrumental/electronic jam fusion scene has branched out in numerous directions over the years.  While long-standing heavyweights like STS9 and Lotus are still putting on great shows, plenty of other bands have jumped into the mix.  TAUK has done a great job of standing out in this field. Known for their energetic live shows and their catchy hooks that don’t need lyrics to draw you in, TAUK has seen tremendous, well-deserved growth over the past 5 years.  They packed their February show at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, and their two-set show was another great example of how exciting this style can be.

What I like most about TAUK is how they can be melodic in their instrumentals.  They’re not always throwing out huge crescendos or continually going off in different directions.  They can take a riff or a theme and play off of it for an entire song. The opening song “Mokuba” shows that ability nicely.  Tasteful riffing, a nice rise and fall, but also not trying to do too much all at once. That’s not to say the band can’t blow your mind (that certainly happens as well), just that they’re not trying to do that every second of every song.  “Afro-Tonic” started out nice and mellow, although by the end of the nearly 15 minute song they finally let loose with some raging guitar work. The guitar wasn’t the only instrument to have the opportunity to blow minds, as the synth on “The Spot” went off in places, albeit for short bursts rather than extended mind-blowing solos.  “Tumbler” also had an impressive and somewhat longer synth run near the end of the song.  

Any instrumental band needs to have a good ability to have interplay between the instruments.  TAUK showed that off on numerous occassions. The guitar and keyboard/synth worked well throughout the show.  “Convoy” showed that off with the two instruments trading the main lick of the song back and forth with the other providing extra accompaniment each time and “Shenanigans” had some really interesting power plays going back and forth.  “CMF 9000” was another great example of instruments sharing a riff and then breaking it down before coming back to the main riff again. And “When in Doubt” had some of the best examples of the band rising to an epic climax before bringing it back down again of the night.  And the band does a great job bringing power to their songs, which was most exemplefied in their encore of “Sunshine” into a bad-ass cover of “Kashmir.”  

The only criticism I would have for the show is that the songs can sometimes blend together and not really be distinct.  Depending on the experience you’re going for, however, that’s not always a bad thing. I also would’ve liked to see some more of the rhythm section stepping out into the forefront.  The bass and drums provided a great backbeat and some interesting dynamics, but rarely stepped out into the front to lead parts of a song. But in the end TAUK brought some real fire and lots of talent to the stage.  They’ve become an extremely talented, extremely tight live band, and they’ve been getting even better over the years.