Saturday, October 27, 2012

Doctorfunk at The Highway 99 Blues Club and The Shake the Shack Halloween Special 10-27-12

The rumor was that Dan Aykroid was going to sit in with Doctorfunk. When Lee Oscar (you know him as the outstanding harp player with War) heard about it, he wanted in too. It wasn't well advertised, it literally dropped into Doctorfunk's lap that very morning. While I was mildly interested in seeing a film legend and blues man perform I was mostly interested in seeing Steve, Leonard and the other great musicians that is Doctorfunk.

Here is a pic of the stage; evidence of good things things to come.

For the record, I did not stay long enough to see Dan and Lee perform. I got my dose of funk in the first long set. I finished my beer and left at the first break. But do not fear dear reader, just one hour of Doctorfunk is worth a lifetime of cultured tunage. Yes, I got my funk on, as did the near capacity crowd. Here is a shot down the bar, see The Highway 99 Blues Club here:

I started out the evening performing a skit/radio play with some of my favorite people on my favorite radio station. As many of my readers know I am always talking about Leon Berman and his long lived and much loved rockabilly radio program. Shake the Shack is one of the, if not the premier rockabilly radio show in the whole big world! He plays rhythm and blues, boogie woogie, primitive rock and surf all with keen knowledge and a great sense of humor.

Here he is at the controls. If you look closely at the top of the studio equipment, you will see a kinetic sculpture I made for Leon. I took his head and put it on Elvis' body.  I separated the top from the legs and hooked them to a simple crankshaft. When you turn the crank his legs wiggle back and forth. I like Leon.

He and his cousin Mike host the show and have listeners from all over the world. They are real cousins and by a funny coincidence, I also spent time with Leon's brother Leonard later in the evening. Do you think I may be a little obsessed with the family? Hmmm, time to see the shrink again, before they call my parole officer.

Here is Leonard. A slightly different version of Leon, it was spooky to see them both, separately in the same evening.

Tonight the boys had a special treat for their listeners. It was the Annual Shake the Shack Halloween Special, this time with an extra twist. Mike wrote a script that had them broadcasting live from Berman Castle situated on the Polish moors. A haunted castle owned by their family, Mike and Leon would inherit the place if they spent 24 hours there, a classic horror genre theme.

I was asked to play Throckmorton, the droll but devious cousin. If Leon and Mike had an untimely end, I would be next in line for the castle. We performed this all live on the radio, a freaking gas! When they asked me to help I was all over it, like a pig for slop (sorry, my dad used to say that...I am getting more like him every day. Now there is something really scarey!).

Mike wrote the script and busted his cheeks to make this show a memorable experience for the listeners. He also chose all the photos and recorded all the sound effects, a time consuming project that demanded a lot of careful manipulation of sound files. He is a meticulous planner and has an excellent attention to detail. The result was something entertaining and fun. I helped with doing some Photoshop work on the pics and I was in charge of uploading the images to Facebook.

This was a multimedia extravaganza! Ok, it was a bunch of regular chumps that were trying desperately to be funny. The thing that always saves us from scorn and ridicule is the music. Leon prepared the playlist, all Halloween related. There were a lot of funerals, vampires, werewolf's and banshees! One of the great tunes Leon played tonight was Everyone Smokes in Hell.

He knows how to rock, pacing the show so that by the time it is over "the hairs on your butt cheeks are standing on end". Not my words, please no harm intended. Sometimes you just have to include a quote no matter how inappropriate and rude it is. This term is a registered trademark of Shake the Shack.

It was fun for us and I hope that the listeners were entertained.

Here is the whole crew; Nate as Lord Angus and The Invisible Man, Thom (me, in back) playing Throckmorton, Mike playing Majordomo and himself, Mel as Mrs. Borden and Leon as the madman of Berman Castle.

You can listen to the show for the next two weeks (posted on 10-27-12) on KEXP. Go to the live streaming page, pick Leon Berman in the Host window, pick The October 26th show and choose your player.
You can also see all the pics we uploaded to Facebook here. Give us a like if you are of that persuasion.

I found a super cozy little spot at the club directly in front of the stage. The Highway 99 Blues Club is a supper club early and a dance venue later as the band starts rocking. Tonight Doctorfunk came on just before 10, by that time folks were digesting their food and ready to get funky.

Steve Balanos is the lead vox for this killer band. I know Steve professionally, he is a supplier to my fine employer. I have found him to be professional and organized, a joy to work with. That is why when I see him perform, hear his killer voice I am left slack-jawed. He is a phenomenal performer.

He is constantly on the move, working the crowd, belting out the awesome vocal and using the stage as his playhouse. I really am in awe of this guy, what a cool world he inhabits.

It helps that he is backed by one of the best funk-based bands in the Northwest. They have been the go-to funk band since 1995. I have reviewed them before, you can read it here:

See Doctorfunk here, sign up for their emails:

The band is: Steve Balonos on lead vocals and the sex-machine on stage. Alright, I am a guy, but I would think any red-blooded woman would love to watch this guy croon while oiling his way around the stage. In a less cultured place than Seattle, panties would litter the stage. 

On lead guitar is brother Leonard Berman. I really never realized how important a strong lead was until I saw a funk band live. Funk is considered danceable blues, it would only make sense that a skilled guitarist is required. Leonard has the skill and passion that this genre is known for. He is dynamite as his solos leave the peeps screaming for more.

Jim Cliff lays the bottom and sings vocals. Killing the bass he has magic fingers and a beautiful voice, singing lead and joining Steve in many a funky tune. I didn't get the best pic of Jim, there he is way in the back right.

The horn section is amazing, the backbone of a Tower of Power style funk band. Led by Jack Halsey, the boys are anything but sloppy (a dig from Steve, said in jest); tight, skilled and monumentally powerful. You can feel the wind generated by this collection of brass and woodwind.

Jack is the horn arranger and directs the horns live even as he plays a beautiful trumpet and occasionally when the tune demands, a Flugel horn. He has these guys totally in sync, all on the same page, making marvelous music. There Jack is on trumpet.

Greg Lyon is the other trumpet, playing the chop-buster stuff. Nailing the high notes he is a skilled and entertaining brass player.  I have a soft spot for the trumpet, I played coronet in my Junior High school band...poorly. There Greg is rocking with Leonard.

Alexey Nikolaev plays tenor sax and slays the solos. He had all the dancers in a froth as he played his beautiful music for them; they bopped in unison, arms in the air, digging the love. There Alexey is on the far right.

Bob Bradley plays the the alto and tenor sax. He is another one of the killer musicians that form this marvelous group. He has some great solos and is one of the linch-pins in this powerful machine;  the Horns of Doctorfunk. There he is, second from the right.

Scott Dart plays the big hole, at least that is what Steve calls it. The sound it emits is a low thump, a natural sub-woofer, a sonic boom in a woodwind package. Your bones rattle, your eardrums vibrate and the your inside of your thighs start to perspire. Your cat-scan will be different after Scott gets through with laying down his brand of funk.

Here he is with the big basso profundo sax.

The keys were handled by the talented fingers of this Eric Popowicz, on the left, in back.

Dave Austin was busting the skins, keeping the band in-line with the funky beat. He had some solos that had the crowd jumping all while driving the band unrelentingly on.

The dance floor was packed the whole night. People were moving to the beat even at their tables, the beat was infectious and the babies were grooving. Doctorfunk was bringing back the funky right here in public for all to see.

We have some excellent hand-crafted beers here in the Pacific Northwest. One of my favorites is Manny's, a beverage lovingly brewed by Georgetown Brewing Co., a damn tasty IPA. See them here:

I left before the big attraction joined the group on-stage but really feel like I missed nothing at all. I loved the hour plus of this great band and I got my funky fix. I am sure I will hear about how Dan and Lee amazed and how they went on till 2am in a sweat, mangled bodies left in their wake...ce la vie. I have no regrets.

See some live music soon, support your local live music venues and the incredible talent that is playing their butts off for your entertainment every night.


  1. Hi Thom! Thank you for the great review! I didn't know you were there or I would have said hi. Dan Aykroyd was held up at his earlier event and couldn't make it. Damn! That would have been fun and I was hoping for a new shot for may ego wall. Anyway, thanks for coming. On Drums is Dave Austin, and Keys is Eric Popowicz. Peace!
    Steve Bolanos

  2. Awesome! Glad you cam make the shows that I miss! Must have been a blast to do the radio show, too! And according to husband Pat, Manny's is Mother's Milk! ha


No comments until the next post.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.