WRVU gets an exclusive opportunity to cover press for Sungazer’s show at Exit/In on September 8, 2022.
By Grace Wildermuth
If you asked me what I expected to hear at an electrojazz concert, I wouldn’t have guessed samples from Hudson Mohawke, Jason Derulo, and J.S. Bach, but that is exactly what Sungazer delivered to Exit/In.
Sungazer’s Adam Neely (bass) and Shawn Crowder (drums) mixed samples and musical references with heavy, rhythmic bass lines and funky meters to create their unique blend of jazz fusion and EDM. The band paced their setlist well, contrasting higher energy songs with quieter solos that kept listeners engaged. Keyboardist Christian Li and guitarist Shubh Saran wove together solos and melodies that made me forget there weren’t any lyrics to sing along to. The dominance of the drums and bass made the music easy to dance to, despite the odd math-rock meters and often-changing tempos.
The band’s jazz roots were evident in the structure and content of their setlist. Crowder’s solos were rife with the meter changes and unexpected syncopations that are commonplace in jazz. Before his solo, Neely joked that it was time to start a conversation or get up and leave, referencing the fact that people never know when the bass solo is happening at a jazz concert. He then jokingly began to play Cello Suite no. 1 by Bach, one of the most recognizable pieces in classical music, but layered it with complex harmonies to transition into his own solo. Sungazer later wove the rhythm of Hudson Mohawke’s “Cbat” into one of their own songs. This type of sampling and referencing worked well with the improvisatory nature of Sungazer’s music, and kept the setlist fresh and interesting.
Sungazer knows their audience. Neely’s YouTube channel, which explores the intricacies of music theory and has amassed 1.61 million subscribers to date, draws a nerdy crowd—many of which are likely musicians themselves. Early on in the set, Neely highlighted an odd meter by counting “1, 2, 1 2 3 4 5.” Later in the set, Neely had the crowd clap an off-beat rhythm in ⅞ to their song “Anthem,” which the crowd held down despite the uneven pulse. Neely’s antics and the response from the audience made the concert environment fun and playful. You didn’t need to know any music theory to immerse yourself in the crowd’s energy.
Sungazer’s relaxed stage presence made their music accessible to listeners without a jazz background too. At one moment, Neely accepted a fan’s phone to take their BeReal. At another moment, he joked that the band didn’t know who was on each part in their new song “Perihelion,” since they never rehearsed that track with Li and Saran before. The audience thrived off of their down-to-earth energy, laughing at Neely’s solo and choice of samples, and dancing along to the Jason Derulo electrojazz remixes.
Sungazer’s music was technical and intelligent, balanced by their laid-back energy and witty references to past hits and current trends. Despite not knowing the band’s entire discography, it was fun to be part of a crowd who so obviously enjoyed their music, and I would love to see them live again in the future.