Road warriors

Con Brio brings its onstage bravado and positive vibes to Sacramento

Con Brio has a thing for bandanas.

Con Brio has a thing for bandanas.

Photo courtesy of Con Brio

Check out Con Brio at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub 7 p.m. Wednesday, December 27. Tickets are $15.

Bandanas and socks that separate the big toe from the rest—these are some of the presents Con Brio received from a fan in a crowded train station in Tokyo, Japan. Lead vocalist Ziek McCarter describes it as bizarre.

“She found us in a train station with a rolling backpack full of presents,” he says. “How did she even know where we were?!”

Toe socks aside, Con Brio is a seven-member band that formed in 2013 and grew organically from the Bay Area’s music scene. Multiple jam sessions between members resulted in an undeniable chemistry, and they thought, “Hey, why not?”

Their instincts were right. Con Brio’s music is a rare blend of funk and happiness woven into a soulful package by McCarter, Brendan Liu (trumpet), Marcus Stephens (tenor sax), Benjamin Andrews (guitar), Patrick Glynn (keyboard), Jonathan Kirchner (bass) and Andrew Laubacher (drums). In the band’s newest single “All Over Me,” the instrumentals create a sultry edge that begs listeners to dance—or at least sway—to the uplifting lyrics.

Offstage, they embody the same affirmative, chilled-out vibes.

“I’m not a car horn user,” McCarter says. “I’ve never honked to express frustration with someone because it just doesn’t get anything done.”

Their positive songs focus on love and passion, inspired by young artists such as The Weeknd and Khalid.

“To see Khalid, a young black male out of Texas hitting the pop charts … it is a beautiful thing,” McCarter says.

Their creative process is simple: “We have a lot of cooks in the kitchen, and seven cooks equals a lot of flavor.”

This vibrant energy translates to shows as well. McCarter nailed a backflip onstage at Austin City Limits, and it was no fluke: “I started taking gymnastics because [a backflip] seemed like a gesture to get the crowd amped up.”

Con Brio knows its strength is in live performances. The band has been touring a lot the past couple of years, which means living in close quarters most of the time. (We’re talking seven musicians in two-or-three-beds close, so it’s a good thing their chemistry is solid.)

And Con Brio has nailed it down: “We wake up, drive wherever, sound check, play the show, enjoy the nightlife and repeat,” McCarter explains.

With aggressive tour schedules come missed birthdays and births back home, but McCarter says the crew is grateful to do what they love. They’ve recently started cutting back on touring to focus on writing songs. Most recently, the band collaborated with songwriters in Los Angeles on a new album scheduled to be released spring 2018.

“We’ve learned to get out of our own way [with] regards to making decisions, taking chances and creating and collaborating in certain ways,” McCarter says. “It is all new right now and completely eye-opening since we’ve all learned how to just flow.”

He says Con Brio is excited to return to Harlow’s stage December 27 with new songs to share.

“We rehearse and have a bit of a blueprint but treat every night fresh,” he says.

It’s likely they’ll enact their pre-show rituals: huddling before taking the stage, McCarter chewing gum (a second-nature necessity) and Stephens punching a clock as they all scream, “Let’s work!”

McCarter says Con Brio will play the Sacramento show like it’s the last show of 2017—in other words, expect a lot of sweat and laughter. Perhaps Con Brio will even get a few more toe socks to add to its collection.