The music is rocking. Everybody in the place is dancing, and the floor is literally bouncing. You would think you just walked into a dance club, not a concert at the 8x10. But that's the kind of vibe you can expect from funky groove band the Bridge.
"It's really hard to step into the room when we're playing and not party," said Kenny Liner, the band's mandolin player and beatboxer.
With a capacity of only 400, it's hard to find a spot in the club that's more than a few feet from the band. This comfortable, intimate atmosphere has made the 8x10 the Bridge's favorite and most frequently played East Coast venue.
The Baltimore-based band played their first show last night, and will play the 8x10 every Wednesday night this month and in August - with the exception of Aug. 30 - marking their third summer residency at the venue. Eight shows may sound like overkill to some, but a look into the Bridge's musical elements and improvisational approach suggests that each night will be a unique experience.
"You'll get it the first time around," said 8x10 co-owner Brian Shupe. "But the more you see it and the more you're exposed to it, the more you'll realize the small, intricate things in their music."
The 8x10's residency program allows bands to play weekly shows at the club. Shupe said it helps bands make a bigger footprint in the Mid-Atlantic and reach a bigger audience through word-of-mouth.
Guitarist and lead vocalist Cris Jacobs said the band plays rock 'n' roll with elements of funk and American roots music - blues, folk and soul. The five-piece band, which also includes drums, bass and saxophone, delivers it as a high-energy, danceable fusion.
Liner's beatboxing, which he said he's done since he was a little kid, makes it even more entertaining.
"I remember specifically getting kicked out of class in second grade because I was making noises with my mouth," he said.
It wasn't until he beatboxed for Taylor McFerrin, son of Bobby McFerrin and an established beatboxer, that he realized he had an uncommon skill.
Every concert, the music takes on new life. The band tries to find spaces to stretch songs out and create new, exciting moments, Jacobs said. "We try to make every show a different experience by challenging ourselves and giving listeners something new every time," he said.
While there is certainly an emphasis on jamming, the band's songwriting is also praiseworthy. A good jam can't survive without the foundation of a good song.
The Bridge is always looking for new ways to serve the music and expand its horizons. Liner, who usually plays a five-string electric mandolin with an organ effect, has been experimenting with the more traditional eight-string acoustic mandolin, trying to make it fit the band's sound. The band is also in the process of adding a keyboardist, but nothing's set in stone, they said.
Outside of playing live, the Bridge is working on its third album. Jacobs considers this the band's first "real album," since its first release was a demo and its second release was a collection of studio and live tracks. Guest musicians on the album include the Funky Meters drummer Russell Batiste Jr. and Phil Lesh and Friends keyboardist Mookie Siegel. The band hopes to release the album around Thanksgiving.
The Bridge plays the 8x10, at 8-10 E. Cross St., every Wednesday through Aug. 23. Doors to each show open at 8 p.m. and tickets are $9. Call 410-625-2000 or visit the8x10.com.