Pumping out summertime kickback jams with hip-hop heart and a disco shine, The Knocks thawed out an icy cold Boston crowd into a college house party sweat.

2/21/19 – The Sinclair

In an homage to their breakout album, ‘55, fans wearing black satin bomber jackets were out in force, forming glossy silhouettes against the Sinclair’s vintage brick walls. A robotic voice came on the loudspeaker and said in monotone: “If you have drugs, now is the time to do them.” Two giant, 6-foot tall penguins in sunglasses then inflated on opposite sides of stage, and the crowd erupted as The Knocks supplied the perfect cocktail of disco dance and hip-hop house party to promote their latest album, New York Narcotic.

A disco ball ironically hung unlit overhead as the New York City duo, Ben “B-Roc” Ruttner and James “JPatt” Patterson performed in front of wall of spotlights, the outer edges glowing yellow, reminiscent of the classic gold rings from the old Sonic the Hedgehog video game for Sega Genesis—a subtle 90s throwback much like their sound.  Chains and dog tags bounced off JPatt as he spun with a glittered face and bright smile.  B-Roc never stopped moving, even shaking a tambourine in his right hand when it wasn’t needed on the wheels of steel.

The Knocks filled the air with their carefree, party jams, like “Classic” and “Ride or Die” ft. Foster The People.  Having perfected the modern get-down-with-your-bad-self dance jam, the Knocks harness the magic behind the most beloved 90s hip-hop dance jams, and modernize it through an electro-pop lens. What sets the Knocks apart is that instead of simply recycling popular 90s rap songs into mashups or minimally altered remixes, they build their own, unique songs from scratch, honoring, but not copying the high-energy rap beats and vocal ear candy disco hooks sampled on those rap songs for today’s nostalgia-stricken listeners. This appreciation of the classics is what gives them the ability to create such celebratory, wedding-level dance jams with sunny, melodic vocals, and beats that knock.  

Fans reacted to the songs the way you might at a college house party when your favorite throwback banger comes on. The Knocks knew this is what the audience came for, so they played it up by intermittently dropping surprise snippets of 90s hip-hop party bangers by artists like Rob Bass and Fatman Scoop to which the crowd jumped like they were seeing an old friend.

The audience appeared most responsive to older hits like the Wyclef Jean collaboration, “Kiss The Sky” and, “Dancing with the DJ,” which was The Knocks’ first release ever and official announcement to the world that they were proudly taking disco back.  The evening reached its sonic height when they playedGoodbyes” ft. Method Man, when the claps and hi hats were at optimal crispness, and the Sinclair’s house system kicked out a pounding bass you could feel in your chest.  Instrumentally, the real standouts were the two guitarists shredding in glittery disco bodysuits, including New York City DJ and bassist Blu DeTiger, who commanded the stage with a superhero power-stance and effusive facial expressions to match.

JPatt spoke some endearing words to the crowd near the end of the show saying, “Boston, we’re the Knocks and we’re from just down the street…New York City…and we only ask that you dance and be good to your neighbors.”  It was a warm moment that felt like The Knocks, as individuals, are as inclusive as their music.

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