All words and photos: Kara Capelli
What’s hotter than the sweltering, record-setting temperatures that have finally come to pass over DC this summer? Answer: the eight-piece funk and soul collective Orgone, who made sweet, sweaty love to a room full of DC yuppsters at the Red Palace Thursday night. Bodies rubbed, feets kicked and hips shook as Orgone spread their lovin’ all over the packed crowd.
In her barely-there backless white handkerchief of a shirt and short cool afro, Nikki Crawford made for a stunning frontwoman bursting of pure soul. The band warmed up the crowd before she took the stage, and with the audience already rearin’ to go, she had us dancing full throttle halfway through her first song Rock Me, straight through to a new one for the band called Say Goodbye and then several others.
If this anecdote of a show is any indication of larger trends, I learned that it is always worth my time to check out large funk bands at the Red Palace. Hailing from L.A., Orgone is made up of eight polished musicians, including the sultry vocals of Crawford, driving percussion, a couple of horns, keys and bass, and a lead guitarist with a serious wild side. They’ve released several albums over their decade-plus career and have a new one out sometime this fall. Their albums are great, but their live show is where they shine.
Orgone is constantly on tour, playing everything from intimate venues like the Red Palace to large festivals like Bonaroo. I had no idea how eight people planned to fit comfortably on the Red Palace stage, not to mention the 15-or-so different kinds of instruments strewn among them. They had to consolidate their set-up, but neither audience nor band had any intention of consolidating the energy.
I imagine this band would have no trouble at all amping a crowd much larger than one sized for the upstairs of the Red Palace. In fact, they’ve opened for, played alongside, and backed a number of high-profile artists. But they still showed this small Thursday night crowd their love, and DC gave love right back.
The audience danced, jammed, stomped and kicked, threw their hands in the air and moved around like people who did not care one lick who was looking, doing the out-of-sync/shoulder-roll/hip-thrust dance, a time-tested favorite of flowy-skirt/cargo-shorts-wearing white folk. Terrible, funky, liberating dancing. The best kind.
The sweet dance moves inevitably revved up further when Stewart Killen soloed or otherwise showed off his badass percussion skills. (My thoughts on repeat when watching him: WHAT PLANET DID YOU COME FROM I WANT TO GO THERE.) He was a solid ball of mass, with his powerful flying arms seeming to move separately but in sync with the intricate dancing of his feet, torso and shoulders, as he dominated his bongos, tambourine, shakers and panoply of other percussion instruments all at once.
We sang-shouted “Funky Nassau” with the band, then straight into “Strike,” until the leading lady left the stage, leaving seven misfit-looking men to carry on. After a compliment to his absent counterpart, and with a sinister smile, lead guitarist Sergio Rios declared in no uncertain terms “WE ARE ORGONE. Let’s start what we came here to do,” blasting straight into more guitar driven funk, including the song Sophisticated Honky and a whole lot more dancing.
When Crawford returned a few songs later she laughed-giggled-cooed to us how much she loves this DC audience. Maybe she does that to all her audiences, but the crowd hung on her every word as they launched into a “Don’t Stop” sing along. The audience obviously returned the love upon her request: “Now if y’all feel like lovin’ us back, repeat after me.” There was no doubt they felt like loving Orgone back with all their might – lovin’ them right through “Love Maker” to end the set.
We must have passed the bedroom test, because Orgone came back for more with a two song encore, including the songs “Break in the Road” and “It’s Serious,” as well as a definitive statement from Rios, “Orgone officially loves DC” Success! Hopefully they’ll be back here soon.
A show like this one reminds us exactly why music exists: to make us dance, to give us a release, to make us feel something. And that night we got two funk ‘n’ soul collectives for the price of one. 8 Ohms Band, hailing from Annapolis, opened the show. In many ways they’re an East Coast equivalent to Orgone, except with a whole lot more horn. Every instrument got her day to shine throughout the set but it’s the horns that drive this band that features three breeds of saxophone, as well as trumpet and trombone front and center on the stage. This is the second time the groups have teamed up for a show.
The mastermind behind 8 Ohms Band is Kevin Basiliko, the band’s alto and baritone sax extraordinaire, who started the band half a decade ago. There are nine of them now, including their newest member Denise Henderson. She may be new to this group, but with a background in gospel and a heart for soul, she is no amateur; their model is similar to Orgone and she’s the leading lady on stage.
She joked the band took her on after they realized they needed someone “who looks like that,” indicating the band’s poster featuring a silhouette of a curvy prima donna over a psychedelic design. She laughed like she was kidding; but really, it’s a pretty clear truth that every good funk band needs its personal brand of Diva. (Where would the Dap Kings be without Sharon?) Just like Nikki Crawford from Orgone, Henderson is the energetic, charming force that loves up on the audience, flatters them, and ultimately gets people out of their comfort zones and moving.
- more photos of Orgone
- The 8 Ohms Band