One of the major culture shocks of the New York summer for me, apart from the mouse and the 24 hour availability of beer and the hipsters and corner boys and free gigs and infinite pizza diet, has been the amount of funk music forced through my ears. I live with three other people from home. Two have musical taste with a reasonable overlap with mine. One cannot tolerate two consecutive songs without the word “uh!”
Not just at parties, or in the evenings, but first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Sometimes it’s murder, but it does sink in. I find myself thinking things like “wow, nice sousaphone” even though I don’t know what a sousaphone looks like.
This flatmate with the funk, though, from the minute his feet hit the ramp at JFK, he was giddy about one gig in Prospect Park. The Budos Band on support, and Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings headlining. Both bands are on a sort of update-the-funk-and-soul label out of Bushwick, Brooklyn called Daptone. And you know how it is with free gigs in Prospect Park. You go to them.
So, Budos Band. It’s funk, but it’s Afro-funk. Not that they are African, but Afro-funk is a strain of funk music, I have learned – and the best one. They groove, instrumentally, with a big meaty horn section led by the baritone sax. A baritone sax is like an alto or tenor sax, but massive and lower. No messing around with Budos. They are as tight a band as I have seen, but I don’t go to see bands who play instrumental groove stuff often, so what would I know.
You’re probably intuiting that I have no idea how to talk about this, so I’ll try keep it short. Budos were good, but as guitarist/leader of the Dap Kings Binky Griptite put it eloquently in his two minute long crowd-hyping groove introduction, the star of the show is… Miss Sharon Jones.
She is tiny, curvy and covered in sequins, but her voice is like something straight off a scratchy 60s soul record. Not Motown, grittier than that. She sings songs, people dance.
It’s a show, though, not a concert. There’s Miss Sharon Jones telling the Brooklyn crowd that, though she was born down South, she “came up” in Brooklyn, and naming the elementary, middle and high schools she went to. There’s Lee Fields, another Daptone-associated artist, coming out for as kitsch a his & hers duet as you will ever see. There’s a groove-free song where Jones shows gospel roots, called “Mama Don’t Like My Man”
And there’s the Soul Train, which is basically Sharon Jones doing a variety of dances of different ethnic origins and then doing the whole “feel it in my feet – and then way up to my knees” thing. It’s cheesy as all fuck, but it’s captivating. By the time they finish with 100 Days, 100 Nights (the hit, if hit status is determined by how many times Duffy puts something on on his iPod) it’s been nearly two hours of legitimately old school groove soul. Not even retro, that implies some kind of self-awareness that SJDK don’t pay much attention to. It ain’t nothin’ but a party.
Oh, and much as this blog’s official stance on popularity is that it is incidental and unrelated to musical merit… 20,000 Brooklynites can’t be wrong.