Saturday, April 21, 2012

Eldridge Gravy and the Court Supreme, The Brown Edition and Philly's Phunkestra at the Tractor Tavern 4-20-12

Here is one to add to your bucket list; see Eldridge Gravy and the Court Supreme. Your life will not be complete until you have had this wonderful experience. Don't take my word for it, check this out:

More on them later, this was a magical evening for me.

I was fortunate enough to sit in with my two favorite Dj's on the best Rockabilly, R&B, Surf radio program in the country. Shake the Shack is in it's 25th year under the tutelage of The Doctor of Proctology, Leon Bermen. I have been listening for most of those years, from the tiny studio on the UW campus to their present location, Leon has consistently played the best in Rockabilly music. A member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, the good doc is also the sweetest guy you would ever meet.

Look at that smile!

I have sat in with Leon, Mike and the rest of the rowdy crew several times. It is so much fun to be part of something that made such a big change in my musical tastes so many years ago. I was seeking when I first heard Shake the Shack; looking for something to replace the post-punk music I had been listening to for years. There is only so many times you can listen to Atrocity Exhibition (Joy Division...did I say that? Kevin Cole played it just before Leon's show; it rekindled my love for the dark side). But I am straying here. Leon played the music that I would come to love, to live for.

Here is the doctor at work:

Leon and Mike asked me to be in the skit they were doing in conjunction with their all Space themed show. I would play Autobahn, protocol-male to Talleah, Queen of Mars. I was promised that I would be performing rectal probing, I couldn't say no.

We barely had 20 minutes to practice. 3 of the actors tonight were all partners at the same great coffee company. Mike, Betty Ford Galaxy and I are linked by the amount of caffeine we have in our systems at all times. Jumpy, me?  The other two were KEXP talent; Mel and Leon are linked by their love of music, Bully! It was a fun group, we bonded over the silliness of Mike's script.

Here is Mike and Betty Ford Galaxy; menace of the Roller Derby circuit.

The acting was not the best at times but the show was entertaining and fun. I always love Mike's enthusiasm for theater, he is a radio pro from way back and has not lost any of his love for being on-air. He wrote this script spending hours adding the right touches, jokes about rectal probing and missions to Uranus. The script was funny and we did our best with little preparation, but it was the music that saved us.

Leon's collection of music is amazing. He comes to work with more luggage than a family of 4 has on a month trip to Poughkeepsie. More CD's than any one person can listen to in a lifetime. This is but a small part of the collection. Leon has the largest collection of Surf music in the world. His love of this music has made the genre more accessible to the unwashed masses.

Leon is the madman behind Shake the Shack, too bad he doesn't have any fun.

After a lot of great music, rectal probing and an encounter with the beautiful Queen of Mars, we wrapped up and went our separate ways. You can stream this program for two weeks from today. Take a listen and you can hear how lame Carmen Ghia sounds while you read this blog.
In the DJ column scroll down and choose Leon Berman, at the next window choose the April 20th show, at the next window you will be able to choose the player you want.

Here is the Spaceship in Denny Park:

I don't know where the others went, but I headed to The Tractor Tavern to hear some funk. Here is a genre that I have ignored since the Tower of Power days. I still play their music along with some Parliament-Funkadelic at times but haven't seen any live funk for a decade. Tonight promised three funk bands, and an act with a name that was so compelling that I could not resist.

The line was already out the door when I arrived at the Ballard landmark at 9:30. The kiddies were getting ready to dance, sweat and boogie. I was a little surprised at the make-up of the audience. I assumed there was going to be a lot of folks dressed to the nines; big heels, big hair and short skirts. What I saw was the usual Seattle chic; flat shoes, slacks, t-shirts and tattoos. Oh, there were a few nicely dressed ladies but this was the exception, not the rule.

The first band on the fairly large stage was Philly's Phunkestra from Portland. They came on with a rocking instrumental before Miaya, their beautiful and rocking lead singer joined the fun. PP is Chris "Philly", Alex, Tyler, Ryan, Charles, Greg, Brett and the lovely Miaya.

The recipe for any funk band is based on a heavy bottom. The bass and drummer set the pace, the anchor of the genre. Mostly based on a extended vamp on a single cord, Funk is danceable soul.

Philly directs the band from his double deck keyboard on the left. The band is so big that communication has to be coordinated closely; he was signaling to his man on the tenor sax on the far right. Time to rock was his main message, I was sweating from the first song; moving, grooving...funky.

Philly played long keyboard solos and the band rocked behind him. The powerful horn section was laying down the killer sound. A baritone sax pumping out the low notes with lungs full of passion. The trumpet and trombone buzzed their talented lips into the mouthpiece creating brass magic. The tenor is the icing on the cake for this great horn section.

The lead guitarist was pleading with us to move our butts via his Cry Baby, the wah-wah pedal that has a very distinctive sound.

Miaya had a beautiful set of pipes and used them convince the kiddies to move closer and get personal. She had a wonderful stage presence, and was a blur as she belted out the funk

They were really happy to be there and it showed. They played a marvelous set and the crowd loved. I got a chance to voice my appreciation in the street later. I am looking forward to seeing them again.

See them here:

The Brown Edition promised more of the music we all came to see. By the time they came on the place was sold out and jammed with 420 partying inebriates. The smell of pot lingered in the air. The bouncer was on point; I saw him trying to find the scofflaw with his snooter. Or was he just looking for a puff? I figured the stern look on his face and the large Mag-Lite in his hand meant he was serious, but to no avail. Every time the waitress walked out of the main hall past where I was rocking, I got a huge hit, er I mean whiff.

The Brown Edition is Miguel P, Tarik, Thomas, The Ivan, Aaron, Miguel L, Ninee and Brian.  They had the crowd crazy from the first note, Miguel leading his mates in a course of action meant to get your butt moving and your soul singing. Killer bottom with a stellar drummer, congas and a madman on the bass; a beautiful solid wood piece of art. The horn section was dynamite; pumping out accents, solos and background for the edification of the crazed dancers, which was everybody in the house by that time.

High energy funk delivered with enthusiasm and passion; they wowed the crowd who literally roared at every tune. Miguel had us by the balls and he was going to make the most of it. Set um up and knock em down, funk style.

They hail from our state capital Olympia and bill themselves as Sophisticated Funk..I will buy that. But the sweat running down my back and into places that are best left un-named makes me believe that their brand of funk is less sophistication and more tribal.

The lead guitar of this funk band was a lean gent hiding in the back, he had us all locked on his sound. He was moving the strings with skill and artistry. I was surprised that the guitar took such a large presence in these funk bands, shows you what I know.

There wasn't a person around me that wasn't moving; some were acting like this was the first time they have got out of the house for a while. I had one guy that was dancing in front of me, 5 foot tall in bare feet doing the hippie dance. His arms flailing, reaching for the sky, his bare feet moving to the beat and his little eyes closed, lost in the rhythm. This was a lot of fun.

 I loved it and would recommend you see them if you get a chance.
See them here:

Remember The Commitments, the collection of musicians formed for the movie of same name in the early 90's? OK, think of them with a lot more funk. This was my first impression of Eldridge Gravy and The Court Supreme. Both bands are fronted by a white guy with a voice that defied the person presented. Eldridge had a voice that would make Pavoratti weep, would make Sinatra moan.

So here is the scene; there are 13 musicians crammed on the Tractor's stage. In the back there are congas, keyboards, drums, bass, guitar and out front are the horn section, back-up singers and the king of his court, the bigger than life Eldridge Gravy. Eldridge had the best voice of any person I have reviewed in my short career, not saying much but I have seen hundreds of musicians. His voice, personality and showmanship was as good of a show as I have ever seen.

By this time the mass of humanity on the dance floor was at a fever pitch. Eldridge was egging us on with exhortations of love; come to me my children and I will give you what you want, what you's the funk babies! You will never be the same.

13 people in perfect rhythm, folks who have come together to make this world a better, funkier place. The horn section blasted out the tasty burst of energy that makes a funk band real. The bass and percussion are jamming the bottom with the good stuff. The lead guitar is melting our faces with some crazy licks, not what I expected from this band.

On one tune, now one of my favorites, he played more like an ax player in a psychedelic metal band than in a funk band. I bought two copies of Party Hard and listened on the way home. Throat Dry is one of the best tunes on this killer album.

Wow, 13 parts to this amazing band, I was absolutely floored for most of the show. I hollered so hard at the end of every tune that I garnered the scorn of several of my neighbors. There was no where to go, it was a mass that had to move as one. I don't normally like this kind of closeness, but here I was, a slave to the mad hatter.

The Court Supreme is: Lady Gravy, Donnie Dollarstack, Spicy Brown, Aria DeBop, Ol' Pollina, Wilson Mason, Daddy Daddio, The Crime, Yeager, The Colonel, G.I.T., Larry and his highness Eldridge Gravy.

One of the coolest things I witnessed was the love and attention Eldridge showered on his peeps. With every solo he acknowledged the artist. To show his deference to the musicians in the back, he and his entourage would kneel to let the audience see the soloist.

The whole time he is smiling, so happy to share the love with us. He is a very happy person sharing his very happy music. If you hadn't caught his virus by now, you smoked too much weed.

I wish I had better pics, my camera started acting funny and I couldn't maneuver any place to get a decent pic. You will just have to go to their site and soak up some of the sweetest soul and funk you have ever heard. See them here:

 They are locals and play fairly regularly. If you are in the Seattle area try to make an effort to see and support this amazing band. I have said they were amazing twice for a reason, I will not quickly forget this show. My life is changed again; my funky bone has been tickled.

Whats that? DoctorFunk is playing in Woodinville tonight? Oh damn, that bone will not be happy unless I go. This is going to be a very funky weekend.

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