story by Tom Smith
Most dance-loving Chicagoans know Ralph Darden only from his booty-shakin' sets as DJ Major Taylor at a bevy of hot spots across the city. That all changed Memorial Day as the Jai-Alai Savant made their triumphant semi-homecoming from tour at the Empty Bottle, their latest in a series of free Monday night shows. Clad in all white, the power-trio (if there ever was one) pummeled through a groove-heavy set culled in part from their new Thunderstatement EP (Gold Standard Labs).
The sweaty, sunburnt, holiday crowd pulsed to the dense reggae polyrhythms of drummer Jeremy Gewertz and battery-mate, bassist Nash Snyder. Darden led the crew with his white Gibson Firebird slung across his shoulder, singing staccato melodies that he would periodically soak in delay, playing guitar in a fashion that would make Guy Picciotto proud. The result is a sort of a District of Caribbean melange that would suit both sweaty rock clubs and beach-side cabanas alike. The set was punctuated by guest appearances by members of tour-mates and openers Rahim and an effusive vocal performance from Damon Locks of the Eternals.
Laughter and good-natured ribbing dotted the room as the affable Darden described the anxiety that comes with performing before friends for the first time in his adopted city of Chicago. Judging by the the hero's welcome and the post-show congratulations, these dudes have nothing at all to worry about.