January 8, 2012

The Pimps of Joytime / SEE-I / The Dukes - Bowery Ballroom - January 6, 2012

The Dukes

The first and most obvious question I asked myself was why the opening band named themselves The Dukes. There is nothing wrong with the name in and of itself, however when I put the name in the MySpace music search engine there were ten pages of bands with the same name. Also, when I entered the name The Dukes in a regular search engine, I ended up with sites dedicated to the TV show The Dukes of Hazard. The answer to my question is simple - the name is based on their drummer's surname. It's as good a reason as any but maybe they should go with Dukes BK.

The show on Friday night was slated to start at 9PM but guitarist Eric Simon stood alone on stage at about 6 or 7 minutes before the hour playing the blues riff to opening song, "Jumper On The Line." From the way bass player Slim' Stevie Brock and drummer Washington Duke quickly joined Simons on stage it seemed like they were late for their own party. Though once the party started it was slamin'.

The Dukes are essentially a blues rock band in the same vein as The Rolling Stones and The Black Keys. In fact, a few of the songs in The Dukes set were straight forward blues progressions executed by Brock's fluid bass and Simons slide guitar.

My first impression of the band was that Simons seemed like he grew up on Muddy Waters or John Lee Hooker and Brock looked like he just came from a session in the 70s with Jimmy Page or Keith Richards. So I couldn't help but think, that held together by Washington Duke's drumming, the trio had the power and punch of The Jimmy Hendrix Experience.

The Dukes currently have a 3 song EP out, titled Put'Em Up, which you can download for free by going to their Facebook page. The songs on the EP are "Push Me Away," "Samantha" and "White Lightening."

I assumed on Friday that the five other songs in The Dukes set were new and in the process of being recorded. However, I later realized that two songs sung by Eric Simons were covers. The set's opening song was by R.L. Burnside and the song "Illinois Blues," was by Skip James.

"Excuse Me Slick," was my favorite in the set of the bands original material. It has a lyric which is basically telling someone off with memorable lines like "I don't care who you are...take that bullshit somewhere else!" The Dukes ended with "Empty Room" leaving the very receptive audience wanting more. Like I said earlier, The Dukes set was slamin.'

The Dukes setlist
1. Jumper On The Line - Eric Simons vocal
2. Samantha - Slim' Stevie Brock vocal
3. Push Me Away Slim' Stevie Brock vocal
4. White Lightenin - Eric Simons vocal
5. Illinois Blues - Eric Simons vocal
6. Excuse You Slick - Slim' Stevie Brock vocal
7. Such A Fool - Slim' Stevie Brock vocal
8. Empty Room - Slim' Stevie Brock vocal

The Dukes are:
Eric Simons - vocals and guitar
Slim' Stevie Brock - vocals and bass
Washington Duke - drums and vocals


After The Dukes played a woman sitting close by saw me writing and asked if I knew anything about SEE-I. It was nice to know I wasn't the only person curious as to what their sound would be. The Bowery ad stated SEE-I would be performing with members of Thievery Corporation's live band. I guess we were expecting dub, acid jazz,and lounge music along the lines of Kruder & Dorfmeister,but what we actually heard was brother vocalists Rootz Steele and Zeebo Steele performing good times reggae (ska included) backed by some powerful musicians.

SEE-I prolonged their entrance on to the Bowery Ballroom stage by having the band and vocalist Candice Mills do the first two songs. They also had saxophonist Frank Mitchell warm up the audience as a sort of sideman/MC by asking the how we were feeling etc., etc. I can't say I was blown away by Mills but I was feeling the band in a big way. I especially enjoyed watching bassist Ashish Vyas who loosely danced around, like the Jaco Pasterious of reggae, in front of drummer Jeff Franca in his cool shades to the block out the stage lighting.

Rootz Steele and Zeebo Steele came out after song "No, No, No" wearing safari hats to perform the song "Dangerous" I guess the safari motif must be really in - because it was the second time in two weeks I was seeing a band wearing safari costumes. The first time was the French band Yelle.

Once the duo were in front of the band, the crowd of musicians on stage took on a whole new feeling. It kind of felt like a party where everyone was invited. Especially with songs like "Soul Hitman" with it's lyric "If you ain't got soul, so your rock don't roll." You can see the official video for the song on YouTube, it includes the a fore mentioned musicians in this posting.

SEE-I then moved on to what seemed like a gospel reggae feel with the song "How Could You" which concluded with the lyric "Ja is standing by your side" Rootz did most of the singing with a compelling emphasis on the songs hook and Zeebo did most of the toasting while Rootz adlibbed behind.

SEE-I performed a lot of music in the course of an hour. Some of the songs were run together and some of the songs may have included quotes or lyrics from other songs. The music was good but there was a lot to take in. SEE-I moved through songs like "Computerize" and hmmmmm - yes, a song titled "Punanny" which shared the lyric "You give me fever," I'm sure it did!

SEE-I brought down the tempo just a little with "HATERZ" which had a high pitch keyboard riff in the intro and outro of the song that sounded like something from an old Snoop Dog CD. During the song Zeebo asked any 10 beautiful ladies to come stand in front of the stage as he crouched down while reaching out from the very edge of the stages lip. SEE-I then moved directly into their version of "Murder She Wrote" which I believe was the only cover in their set.

I lost track of the songs after "Murder She Wrote." SEE-I ran so many songs together and I think many of them may have been new. I was able to decipher when they played "The King" because I wrote down part of the lyric. During the song or it may have been after Frank Mitchell played lots of sax and SEE-I did song quotes, the ones I recognized being from Sly Stone's"Thank You," and Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City."

I will just close this section by stating that if you like reggae and you're looking for a good time, SEE-I and their backing band will not let you down.

SEE-I Setlist
Vampire - Candice Mills: Vocals
Bring Love - Candice Mills: Vocals
No No No
Dub Revolution
Soul Hitman
How Could You?
Murder She Wrote (Chaka Demus & Pliers Cover)
He Prayed
It's Love
Shine Eye Gal
Thunder Dawn
The King
Nite Nurse
Shanty Town
Talk 'bout Peace

SEE-I are:
Arthur Rootz Steele: Vocals
Archie Zeebo Steele: Vocals
Rob Myers: Guitar
Jeff Franca: Drums
Javier Miranda: Congas
Ashish Vyas: Bass
Frank Mitchell: Saxophone
Brad Clements: Trumpet
Salem Steele: Keyboards
Candice Mills: Vocals

The Pimps of Joytime

The Pimps of Joytime are a band I knew I had to see because they authentically remind me of music from back in the day. I was in college when Roy Ayers' "Running Away" and Chic's "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)" were happening songs on the dance floor. And I was well into my clubbing days when Tina Marie and early Prince (pre-Purple Rain) were required listening. The The Pimps of Joytime bring all the brilliant elements of 70s funk, dance and fusion into their music and then some.

Brian J is da man! Or I should say front man of the band. On Friday night J wore a checkered yellow cap that made him look, as they used to say - "slick." When J. spoke, he spoke like I imagine a young Dr. John might have spoken. So the first thing I clearly noticed is that J's persona and his music are a perfect match.

The Pimps of Joytime started off their set with the song, "Cut Off," which is new and yet to be recorded. Since J. sang most of the song in his falsetto voice, it felt very Prince minus the six inch heels. The song was hot but things got hotter when J. asked the crowd to repeat after him "Yea!" a couple times, before the band went into the "Heart Is Wild."

Maybe it was the congas, maybe it was the guitar funk or maybe it was the voices singing "get your shit together!" in unison - but all of it brought back pleasant memories of bands like War, Parliament and Funkadelic. The band did a tag at the end of "Heart Is Wild" where they sang/vamped "Oh way oh way oh" and J. sang "We gonna rock with you!

The next song "San Francisco Bound" had a wet hypnotic quality to it. It reminded me of one of those songs dj's used to play back in the day, when it was 4 o'clock in the morning and I was hanging out with a mild and peaceful buzz. Not drunk or really high - just mellow and bopping my head to the music. After the song J. said "Everybody feel alright - somebody say yea!"

J. then set up the following song with a very telling intro by saying "On the road - there are situations where you're only gonna be there for one night - this next joint is called Till I'm Gone" J. rocked out the middle of the song with his guitar but before he did he slipped on his shades. "Til I'm Gone" must be another new song because it isn't on either of band's High Steppin' or Janxta Funk CDs.

Mayteana Morales filled things out for the song "Janxta Funk" with keyboards, vocals, a cowbell and a sample of someone saying the line "Baby, gets down to Funk." During part of the song J. wore his guitar on his back as he also played keyboard.

The band didn't take too much time between songs before going into "Keep That Music Playin'" which starts off with a sample of a jungle beat. The song was the first time I really heard Morales' wonderful voice which should explain my earlier reference to Tina Maria. What I found interesting as well was that J's voice at that point reminded me of Gil Scott Heron.

My favorite song of the set was "Joytime Radio." It was fast, it was funky and J. sang in a baritone voice like he was Sly Stone. I thought it a bit weird that J. announced that the following song "Freedom Dancer," was their last song; it felt like The Pimps had just gotten started - but they actually had.

When The Pimps of Joytime came back for their encore, it felt almost as long as their set. They started with "Brooklyn Midnite," then "Bonita" and then they just kept the music going from there on out. (See the Video of "Brooklyn Midnite" below.) The Pimps performance turned into a dance record on which the music never stopped.

After the first two songs, Camillo Molina sang something in Spanish as he accompanied himself alone on congas. The band then went into a song that repeated the lyric "on my block." Morales pulled out the stops with some soulful wailing during that portion of the encore. And then things got wilder when SEE-I, no longer wearing their safari costumes, showed up to do some more singing.

I'm pretty sure the band got to "My Gold" but by that time I was busy just enjoying the music, I stopped writing down lyrics and taking notes. The show ended just as powerfully as it had started.

Pimps of Joytime Set List
1. Cut Off
2. Heart Is Wild
3. San Francisco Bound
4. Til I'm Gone
5. Janxta Funk
6. Keep That Music Playin'
7. Joytime Radio
8. Freedom Dancer
9. Brooklyn Midnite - Bonita
10. My Gold

The Pimps of Joytime are:
Brian J.: Lead Vocals, Guitar
David Bailis: Bass
Mateana Morales: Sampler, percussion and vocals
Stephen Chopek: Drums
Camilo Molina: Congas, Vocals

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