The first time I saw The Duke of Uke and His Novelty Orchestra was at the IMC during Pygmalion last year, sandwiched between the acoustic folk group Mean Lids and the feet-stompin’ southern riot of Those Darlins. Duke of Uke had the misfortune of being the transition band, trying to bridge a gap between subdued and rowdy, while pleasing an audience that wasn’t sure whether they wanted to close their eyes and tap their feet to the rhythm or shove the chairs to the side and dance along. Yet even within this uncertain environment, Duke of Uke captivated, sliding through a set of sometimes funky, sometimes romantic, always infectious music that pulled from every genre imaginable.
The Duke of Uke defy definition, weaving together classic and rarely seen instruments to transform themselves from surf rockers to smooth jazz musicians, from zippy ragtimers to sixties pop darlings. It’s a performance as rich as cinema, where very song is another character and every character has a story to tell. While their name is an homage to the ukelele that brought the band together, each instrument takes its turn in the spotlight, with deep electric bass carving out the mood, smooth saxophone diving from playful to sexy, rich tuba lolling underneath spirited violin, and conga and bongo drums bouncing along.
With each new personality, the Duke of Uke maintain a vivacious energy, one that will play well with the somewhat cool, somewhat classy vibes of Boltini on Saturday. Whether you’ll be wrapping up an evening full of rock at the Highdive or skipping the rest of Pygmalion altogether, you won’t want to miss what will be a FREE and undoubtedly enchanting performance.