Friday, October 28, 2011

No Lames Up In Here: Dam-Funk/Master Blazter at Highline Ballroom 10.25.2011

Anyone who really knows me knows how I feel about this man.

I feel strongly.

I had been looking forward to his New York show since the tickets first went on sale months ago, and I spent the days leading up to Tuesday night's set at Highline Ballroom by immersing myself in a healthy dose of Slave, Kleeer, Zapp and One Way (standard procedure for me, actually). I went with the only other two people who worship the Funk as much as I do, my best friend and my brother, and once we arrived, it was clear that the audience was strictly made up of people in the know: I'd be willing to bet that the venue wasn't even filled to half capacity that night. Which meant that we got to be front row for the majority of the show, I got to catch one of the giveaway copies of his new (free!) EP, InnaFocusedDaze, AND we got to hold his hand. He even let some randoms jam on his keytar.

For this tour, Dam is forgoing his usual live setup and instead is joined by Master Blazter, creating a funk trifecta: Computer Jay on keys and synthesizers (with triggers), J-1 on drums (and triggers) and Dam supplying keys, (candy red) keytar, vocals and the overall funk. Do. Not. Miss. This. They have been touring the country in a bus bringing the funk (not to mention hooking it up with secret last minute shows and DJ sets) and it truly is one of the best live music experiences one can have. The music this man makes is nothing short of gorgeous. Modern funk symphonies. I don't think anyone respects funk music and the history of it like Dam. It's an extension of himself- there is no distinguishing. Watching him perform is electrifying, almost hypnotic. He's a musical national treasure, and I think, my spirit animal.

His next full length album drops in the spring of next year so if the world really does end in 2012 I'll be fucking furious.

Apart from every single second of the show, I would have to say my favorite parts can be easily put into a top 5 list. In no particular order of G level, they are as follows:

5. After the encore of "Hood Pass Intact", Dam wrapped the show up by saying "you are now free to go, goodnight." (And I'm glad he said something. Because I would've stayed. Seriously.)
4. His 10 minute synth fueled diatribe where he yelled "FUCK DAVE CHAPPELLE, RICK JAMES WAS A REAL G"
3. The beautifully stripped down (it was almost acappella, save for him on keys) and smoothed out version of "I Wanna Thank You for (Steppin Into My Life)", complete with glowing blue spot light beams (one of the most romantic and sincere songs of all time in my humble opinion, and I may or may not have teared up)
2. The Vocoder/keytar Gap Band cover of "Burn Rubber (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)"

I leave you with this. You're welcome.

Scion A/V Presents: Dâm-Funk - Forever from Scion A/V on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Icebird/RJD2 at Brooklyn Bowl 10.11.2011

Watching RJD2 perform songs off of his 2002 debut album, Deadringer, basically made me feel 17 again (couldn't help myself, not sorry). This doesn't really happen to me anymore, as the last time I felt younger (in a good way, and not in a sad "old trick at the club" way) while at a show, I was seeing Raphael Saadiq in 2009 during his The Way I See It tour, and I was reduced to the same adolescent screaming puddle of hormonal and melted "I would" that is usually, and more appropriately, suited for Tyrese concerts circa 1998. This is all just to say that the opening notes of "Smoke & Mirrors" does something to me, chemically. Aural time travel is always my favorite kind.

I went with my brother, which was delightful, but it was extra special because we were also there to see the amazing Chuck Palmer accompany RJ during both his solo set and his opening performance with Icebird, his new collaboration with musician Aaron Livingston (of the Philly based band the Mean, and this Roots' jam). Chuck is the older brother of our good friend Max, and if pressed, I'd say I could really only compare his drumming style to this:

Chuck and RJ went to high school together in Columbus, Ohio, and have been jamming off and on since then, which was evident during the second half of the show, when RJ took to his four turntables and Chuck joined him on his third song (he had opened with "A Beautiful Mine," a.k.a. the Mad Men theme song, and came out post-Icebird wearing a robot jumpsuit with a welding mask, and some sort of Vocoder attached to his crotch that he kept spinning). Their timing and energy worked beautifully together, and it was great to see/hear these songs get a live boost via Chuck's percussion, especially on "The Proxy" and their stellar encore, "Good Times Roll Pt. 2."

Icebird's debut album, The Abandoned Lullaby, which was released that day, is a nice blend of psychedelic funk, and the band, which features Livingston on vocals/guitar, Chuck on drums, a bassist, second guitar player and RJ on keys/Korg, had one of the best live vibes I have seen in a long time. The fun they were having was not only obvious, but contagious: when they came back out for their encore after RJD2's DJ set, they treated us to the best cover of Kelly Rowland's "Motivation" that I will ever hear, as Livingston laughed and said, "I could do this shit all night."

Monday, October 3, 2011

An Evening with Jon Brion at Le Poisson Rouge 10.2.2011

It was extremely fitting that Jon Brion's first night of his Le Poisson Rouge run started off with the multi-instrumentalist/producer/song writer/musical genius idly playing chords from The Wizard Oz soundtrack. A veritable one man band, Brion seamlessly moves from keys to guitars to drums to the harmonica, all the while layering and looping each component (with the help of a MicroKorg), building the songs right before the audiences' eyes and ears. It's kind of like peeking behind the velvet curtain, and watching the Great and Powerful Oz himself.

There were some technical difficulties on the venue's end, resulting in several "live sound checks" from Brion (who jokingly commented, "when I showed up today, the owner was like 'man, you have a lot of stuff'"), but that was just further proof of Brion's consummate musicianship. To see him perform is to see him create, on the spot, off the top of his head and completely organically: that fluidity that comes so naturally (or seemingly naturally, anyway) makes watching Brion even more exciting than listening to him. His musical red herrings (like teasing the chords to the “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” theme song) are very rarely indications of what will actually come next.

Duplicating the same atmosphere of his long running weekly residency at Largo in L.A., Brion wove originals like “Ruin My Day” and “She’s At It Again” into Duke Ellington standards. He re-worked The Zombies' "This Will Be Our Year" via xylophone, covered Roxy Music's "More Than This," and, in what was the highlight of my week, unexpectedly turned an audience suggestion ("Born in the U.S.A.") into a Prince medley. For an artist who is known for his collaborations (he also did a great version of “Looks Like You,” a song he co-wrote with Evan Dando of the Lemonheads) and the roster of talented associates he usually plays with, sometimes it's better when the cameos don't show up. While waiting outside before the show, everyone, myself included, was throwing around names like Aimee Mann, Rufus Wainwright, and of course, Fiona Apple, as potential rumored guests. And while I would've loved to see Brion and Apple do "You Belong to Me” (or anything really, for that matter), I was just as excited to watch him lead the room in "When Doves Cry," at top volume.