Tenfold Path bring their tight grooves to a tight space—a Harvard Square bathroom

Bathroom stalls aren’t known for their acoustics. Despite this—or maybe because of this—watching talented musicians perform in them is entertaining. There’s the feeling of schadenfreude (space is tight), the silliness of ill-suited environments, and the flouting of bathroom taboos. Add a carefree beat and the bathroom-turned-concert-hall’s unnaturalness begins to seem perfectly reasonable. Its unfitness is its raison d’etre. This is the sort of thought you might have while watching Tiny Bathroom Concerts. The series, created by Alec Hutson, caters to Tiny Desk-lovers who no longer think the workplace is a quirky enough venue. Forgoing desks (and personal space), bands perform in cramped quarters adjacent to toilets.

The most recent installment celebrates the sacrificing of personal space for the greater good of funk. In it, Tenfold Path—a nine piece reggae-ska band—has fit itself like Tetris blocks into a public restroom in Harvard Square. Shots reveal a snug puzzle of limbs and instruments, headstocks carefully interwoven, and a trombone situated atop a toilet. The tune, “Barrier,” is peppy and energetic within sensible (environment-related) constraints: minimalist drums, an acoustic guitar, and mutes for the brass. Though these precautions create an atypical tone for reggae or ska, the laid-back vibe doesn’t detract from the song’s exuberant and cyclical highs. The foundational groove sets a cool feel punctuated by warmer riffs.

The band’s primary songwriter, Kevin Ray, plays drums and arranges the band’s music. His arrangement bounces, punches, and crescendos, enlivening the players and listeners alike. Tense, stressful moments release into cathartic bobbing, and finally relax into familiar grooves. Ray also composes Modernist classical music, which—though not an intuitive companion to ska—may subtly influence Tenfold Path’s horn parts and chord shapes. Above the arrangement, however, ska-jazz fusion prevails. Piercing vocals slice through the rhythm section, keyboard dominates the upbeats, and a cool trumpet solo glides the song to a close.   

The band’s self-titled debut EP comes out on August 17th, and though publicity is important, this may be their only Tiny Bathroom Concert for a while. “We’ve decided to outsource all future bathroom performances to our sister group,” says trumpeter Devina Boughton, “Tenfold Bath.”

Shunning the toilet from here on out may be a good career move for Tenfold Path. We’d definitely hate to see their career get stalled.

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