Turkuaz Triumphant in Sold Out Return, Deliver Oscar-worthy Performance in Norwalk, CT
Writer/Photographer: Zak Radick
With performances more than a year in the making, the charismatic 9-piece funk outfit from Brooklyn, Turkuaz, made their triumphant return to a live stage over the weekend. First playing dates in Ohio and Pennsylvania, the colorful juggernaut capped off the cathartic celebrations Sunday night with a poignant, instantly iconic set in Norwalk, Connecticut.
Advertised as a safe, socially distant compliant, outdoor pod-style rain or shine event, tickets for Norwalk sold out quickly. Not only were these the first shows back for the band, it was also the first taste of live music for many fans in attendance. Indeed, the buzzkill of the global pandemic has affected everyone and any in-person concert these days is to be cherished.
Located just a few blocks from the Wall Street Theater, the walk up to the concert site in Norwalk’s Art Park felt a bit surreal. Located in the industrial section of the neighborhood, partially tucked away and presumably perpetually under construction (and perhaps even a bit dangerous at the wrong time of night), it was as if you were entering an alternate reality, a dreamy technicolor landscape akin to a Tim Burton film, circa Pee Wee’s Big Adventure era. Combined with an astonishing showcase of Earth Day murals created by local artists, there was also a significant presence of other street art, sculptures, graffiti tags and thought-provoking propaganda around every corner, all making for the kind of ambiance that harkens back to music festivals of yesteryear. Exactly what so many of us have been missing… waiting… dreaming for.
Early pre-show banter had people discussing the colors the band might be wearing. A return to the rainbow color scheme, perhaps? If you aren’t familiar, in the “early years” of Turkuaz, each member was easily identifiable based on the color of their outfit, or jumpsuit. Just a few months before the pandemic shutdown live music, however, the band shocked fans by changing their overall look to silver, white and tan, thus ushering in the beginning of the “Kuadrochrome” era.
With a forecast that originally called for a 100% chance of rain, perhaps mother nature heard the collective wishes of many and threw us a bone. Since when can weathermen predict the weather anyway, right? By day of show, the concert forecast had now miraculously been upgraded to partly cloudy skies/clearing at night. Sailors delight, indeed.
The time was now 7pm and the magic hour was upon us. Taking place on the same evening as the 93rd Academy Awards, the cinematic sunset behind the stage felt Oscar-worthy in its own right. Professional and punctual like always, just then a brooding ambient tone faded up over the sound system. Right on schedule as advertised, the collective ensemble known as Turkuaz, like a phoenix from the ashes, emerged from the thick smoky haze that had engulfed the stage. Revealing a fabulous new and unified cotton candy pastel look, the Spring-ready band we’re lookin’ tough and ready to boogie down. Greeted by a gleeful chorus of cheers (and some tears), the appreciation felt mutual. The beloved funketeers had return to a live stage and finally, yes finally, it was showtime once again.
Kicking the party off proper, Turkuaz immediately launched into the upbeat one-two punch of “Make You Famous” followed by “The Mountain,” one of the bands oldest (and dirtiest) songs. From there, the energy kept climbing as we got our first taste of some new music. “Knock Knock” and “Club Foot” came next, before the former man in purple (but the always dapper) Josh Schwartz stepped away from the baritone sax and into the spotlight, showcasing his impressive vocal range on the beautiful soul song “It’s So Hard.” He’d return to the mic a few songs later with an even more powerful, stop in your tracks and pay attention, intense rendition of the Sly & the Family Stone classic “Babies Making Babies.” The most recent Turkuaz single “Ophidiophobia” was always played.
By now, night had fallen and despite it being an open air venue, the energy was through the roof. “ The band was determined to take us there, and as the familiar chords of “Electric Habitat” rang out, a strange pungent aroma surfaced in all directions. Holding the audience in the palm of their hands, the band now shifted gears once again, uncorking a dank version of “Gogo Mr. Dodo” featuring the sensual vocals of Shira Elias and Sammi Garett. Fan favorite “Nightswimming” came next, followed by the surprise song of the night, a cover of the 1981 Billy Squier anthem “The Stroke,” a tongue in cheek sing-along that had everyone pumping their fists in unison, even if they couldn’t recall who did the original. With smiles for miles from just about everyone, it felt like this was the kind of party you didn’t want to end, somehow hoping it could go all night. A meticulously crafted setlist, as if right on que, the band started back up with arguably their biggest single to date, “The Generator,” and then another 80’s inspired sing-along, “European Festivity Nightmare.”
Playing for nearly two continuous hours, the single set show came to a close with perhaps the only appropriate song fitting of the occasion. A full fledged-give it everything you have left in the tank-mind melting version of “Back to Normal,” that at one point saw the entire band in complete synchronicity, “running in place” without missing note. If you weren’t already standing before this, you certainly were by the end, as this max effort – cathartic conclusion yielded the biggest cheers of the night and a well-deserved standing ovation.
With the hard 9pm curfew rapidly approaching, there was just enough time to squeeze in an encore. On this memorable, Oscar worthy evening in Norwalk, “Bubba Slide” earned the nod. As the final searing solo from multi-instrumentalist Craig Brodhead continued to peak, there was a feeling that both the band and the fans didn’t want the show to be over.
Based on the number of song fans were still calling out for as the members of Turkuaz took their final triumphant bow of the evening, it’s clear this ultra-talented 9-piece still possess the “It” factor, have plenty of music left in the catalog and are as capable a headliner as any of their peers. Picking up from the pandemic exactly where they left off, on top of their game.
Cathartic, surreal and unmistakably funky, Turkuaz delivered an instantly iconic performance on Sunday that will be remembered for years to come. Not just a concert, but a tangible celebration of life and hope for the future. An important reminder about the healing power of live music and even if lasted only a few short hours, it felt like going back to normal again.
Set 1: Make You Famous, The Mountain, Knock Knock, Club Foot, It’s So Hard, Gremlins, Toolbelt, Ophidiophobia, Babies Making Babies, Electric Habitat, Gogo Mr. Dodo, Nightswimming, The Stroke, The Generator, European Festivity Nightmare, Back To Normal
Encore: Bubba Slide