Khruangbin at the Santa Barbara Bowl


Khruangbin, the Houston-based trio that sold the Santa Barbara Bowl on the last Saturday of their 2021 season, takes their name from the Thai word for airplane. If after listening to them you guessed that “khruangbin” means “reverberation”, you should be forgiven. This is a completely understandable mistake.

Khruangbin has been one of the most unlikely successful touring groups of the past five years, performing in front of huge crowds at festivals and other outdoor mega-venues such as Red Rocks in Colorado. Their low-key, mostly instrumental jam mixes elements of psychedelia, surf, funk and Cambodian rock to produce a hypnotic high that both soothes and entertains in equal measure. On Saturday, November 6, guitarist Mark Speer and bassist Laura Lee showed up to the Bowl in matching black wigs, dressed and ready to rock, while drummer Don “DJ” Johnson Jr. kept the beat behind a simple trap.

Perched on three flying saucer-shaped platforms, Khruangbin sent out funky grooves on the night of a quarter past eight until just before the Bowl’s 10 a.m. curfew. Over the course of 18 songs, they sang just enough to keep the show from being labeled instrumental, never appearing like attention-hungry rock stars. In fact, if there is one secret in Khruangbin sauce, it’s the quiet ego with which these three go about their vaporous and happy occupations. Fan favorites included a dope medley with clips from “Back in Black”, “Dazz” and “Benny and the Jets”, followed by “Pelota”, a slinky original in Spanish. Given the backdrop of such gruesome news earlier today from their hometown of Houston, fans of this crowded but sweet affair have been doubly blessed to be a part of such a sweet scene.

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