With the Duke of Uke & his Novelty Orchestra bringing their act to Cincinnati, it was hard to know what to expect. After all, frontman David King has become a sort of comedic internet celebrity sharing his offbeat sense of humor in the form of political cartooning, strange Photoshop collections, and meme wrangling. The band’s name alone conjures images of some sort of rollicking circus sideshow parading into town in funny wigs and hats. And the Novelty Orchestra has done that, but don’t misunderstand; they are seven wonderfully creative people who make seriously fun music.
Fiddles, tubas, and wild percussion- oh my! And don’t forget the Duke himself on the ukulele, reminding listeners that this is the most under utilized instrument in modern music. The sound they create within their varied orchestra is uniquely their own. With hints of ragtime, vaudeville, and cabaret, their music transports you to another time and makes you want to move your feet in a way that is unfamiliar to them. They swing from one song to the next, offering surprises at every turn, switching up tones and instruments and vocalists. Even though this midweek show did not pull a huge crowd, their energy never wavered and they moved every cat in the house.
The fact that not many people came out to see this great band from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois is really a shame. Because this band is in no way a novelty. They bring musicality with a side of whimsy and mirth. Their set is meant to dazzle and delight, but I get the impression that they would be exactly the same even if they played just for themselves. They seem to truly enjoy everything they do, and every fan they meet. Great people, great music, and a great show. The perfect trifecta.
by Adrienne Panveno
photo by Michael Merline