Sunday night shows at Barboza traditionally, in my experience, have been dozy, poorly attended affairs headlined by worthy yet obscure artists. Last night's main attraction, BALTHVS, traveled all the way from Bogotá, Colombia, and as far as I can tell, don't have a US record label. But they do have the imprimatur of JAZZ IS DEAD, an organization that usually organizes concerts for aging jazz legends and produces albums featuring said legends with JID bosses Adrian Younge and A Tribe Called Quest's Ali Shaheed Muhammad.

Anyway, BALTHVS sold out Barboza on their first trip to Seattle, and the atmosphere in this basement room was electric and damned joyous, even if it was Easter. (The show originally was scheduled for the much larger Neumos upstairs.)

BALTHVS—guitarist/vocalist Balthazar Aguirre, bassist/vocalist Johanna Mercuriana, and drummer, Santiago Lizcano—are neither jazz musicians nor aging legends, but rather photogenic, psychedelically inclined funkateers who began releasing music in 2020. Their recordings are pleasant and floaty in that popular, Khruangbin-like way, but in the flesh, BALTHVS significantly intensify the sweat factor.

Balthazar Aguirre of BALTHVS performing at Barboza March 31. JONATHAN OCHOA

They unpredictably started with a medley of tastefully embellished surf-rock classics before shifting into spectral, languid psych rock, glazed with Mercuriana and Aguirre's breathy vocals. But with the fourth song, "Eclipse Solar," Aguirre declared, "It's disco time," something only a guapo South American making his first US appearance could get away with in 2024. BALTHVS's brand of disco, though, inevitably morphed into a circuitous, psychedelic epic. 

Santiago Lizcano of BALTHVS performing at Barboza March 31. JONATHAN OCHOA

The group later paid tribute to Seattle's greatest rock star, Jimi Hendrix, with "Third Stone From the Sun," which they extrapolated with finesse into a heavenly storm. If we must have sonic pandering to the locals, let it be done with this sort of skill. "We don't stretch out for everyone," Aguirre stated after they finished the extravagantly soulful "Canoas." "It takes trust." As a guitarist, Aguirre belongs to the schools of Carlos Santana, Dick Dale, Vieux Farka Touré, and Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie. And he's graduated with honors.

As with Brazilian band Boogarins at this year's Freakout Weekender, BALTHVS positively glowed with the sheer glee of simply performing in Estados Unidos. It's usually a money-losing proposition for these artists to lug their gear thousands of miles away to play to crowds totaling far below 1000, but they made the sacrifice and Barboza's attendees lavished love on them. BALTHVS promised they'd return and you should seriously consider catching them if you missed this one.

Johanna Mercuriana of BALTHVS performing at Barboza March 31. JONATHAN OCHOA

Seattle quartet Midpak are newcomers, so this opening slot had the air of "this could be our big break" about it. Bassist Samuel Holman came out first, his shirt unbuttoned to the bottom of his sternum, announcing, "Are you ready, Seattle?! We're gonna tear you down!" Normally, such bravado by a local opening act would produce severe eye-rolling, but god damn, Midpak brought the heat.

They began with a cut as thrilling and fleet-footed as Lightnin' Rod's "Sport" and Dennis Coffey and the Detroit Guitar Band's "Scorpio." (Highest praise, in my dog-eared book.) The way Nikolas Jordan's wah-wah-intensive guitar interacted with Tyler's swift conga slaps and Benjamin Ruthorford-Kinney's phat-pocketed beats conjured flashbacks to the zenith of blaxploitation-flick soundtracks. Coming from 20something Pacific Northwest white boys, it was quite the (welcome) shock. 

"Mid Day," the title track from their forthcoming EP, was a boudoir ballad of mellow lubriciousness in which Jordan played guitar with his teeth and behind his back, à la Mr. Hendrix. Dude earned his showboating, though, with frequent displays of mind-boggling dexterity and PhD-level FX-box usage. You'd have to be an asexual killjoy not to dig Midpak's thrusting funkadelia. Your next chance to see these rising stars in action is at the Monkey Pub on April 11. 

BALTHVS performing at Barboza March 31. JONATHAN OCHOA

BALTHVS setlist

01 Surf Medley

02 Anouk

03 Sahara Cowboy

04 Eclipse Solar

05 Vapor Waves

06 Third Stone From the Sun

07 Johanna's Dream

08 Light It Up

09 Canoas

10 Ojos Verdes

11 Gypsy Queen

12 Sunflower Jam

13 Saturn and Jupiter

14 Cosmic Boogie


15 In Lust

16 Turkish Coffee

17 Heat Keeps on Risin'