I saw you: Blonde/Brunette/Black-haired woman dancing on stage at the Sharon Jones concert on January 17th. You grabbed the mike and interrupted the singer with incoherent questions when you were supposed to be up there as backup dancers. Your eyes flailed around helplessly when Sharon spotlighted you as you did your self-conscious tit-swivels, but she still had to basically force you off the stage at the end of the song. You weren’t the only audience members up on stage that night, and you weren’t even the most disruptive. But you certainly set the tone for the awkward crowd interactions for the show. It seemed like the more the band sweated and Sharon rocked out on the mike the less the audience had a cohesive energy or response. In the end you and the performers both looked more befuddled and tired that satiated, like disaffected lovers on a one night stand staring into the darkness, contemplating what might have been awesome, but wasn’t quite a honest experience.
SWM ISO: More guitars that sound like the Dap-kings reverb-dipped aqua-boogie funk lines. As good as the rest of the musicians in this band are, the crisp vintage guitar style of band leader [and long time Daptone Records go-to guy] Binky Griptite are what elevate them beyond retro [and what make Back to Black so listenable as well]. After the opening act, a lovely but oddly cast accordion and violin duo, the Dap-kings came out and warmed us on up, with Binky singing a couple of songs and the horn players doing mildly synchronized head-bopping. I was ready to get down already but the crowd was standing still, at least outside of the first few rows of pistol-fingered drunkies. When I say standing still, now, I don’t mean like swaying and tapping their feet with arms folded or rocking back and forth with their thumbs in their pockets. I mean rock still, like rocks, with dead-eyes glaring at the stage as if to say: Show Me Something Good– So I Can Blog About It. I’m not one of those people who wants to berate folks for not wanting to dance. But I do ascribe to the law that the first rule of dance floors is No Parking Anytime This Means You. I was hoping that once the main event started people would be warmed up enough to all start moving around, creating a little space around them, making the vibe right for me to experiment with some new Good Foot techniques, but it was not to be. I know everybody in DC must be sick of hearing about how terrible they are for not moving around during shows, but the fact remains that unless you have rheumatoid arthritis, you shouldn’t be front and center at a sold out concert unwilling to wiggle your ass even a little bit. Also, you must enjoy long walks on the beach. NSA DDF.
Also Available for Children’s Parties! Sharon Jones finally came out to a surge of cheering, clearly much deserved. She’s got an almost perfect voice, which comes through live even more than on 100 Days 100 Nights. She can rasp out dirty Betty Davis rants, scream like James Brown, and croon like Gladys Knight. Plus she is obviously having a great time, even when scolding the Georgetown law assholes pushing for position in front of the stage. But despite how much everyone loved her, it seemed like her new role as mainstream NPR darling wasn’t exactly sitting right. When random guys jumped up to dance with her, she cleverly but assertively incorporated them into the song’s message (usually on the theme of: You Ain’t No Good), then inserted them back into the crowd. One song had a long spoken word tribute to the dance rituals of Native American and African cultures, which seemed to sail over the heads of most people there, especially the older guy in front of me with the penny loafers and the mullet who kept crouching down to smoke weed. Later she asked if there were any younger guys around and one pretty boy volunteered, leaping elegantly on stage whilst removing his glasses. She asked if he had a girlfriend. He raised his eyebrows and looked sideways at the crowd with a smirk. “Uh, nooooo,” he said. I might have mistaken his meaning but at that point I was standing in a circle of approximately 100 lesbians, who all cracked up widely at his gesture. Girlfriends were clearly not on this dude’s menu. “Well maybe I can help you with that” Ms. Jones continued, seemingly unaware of the insinuation. She then proceeded to sing a long tune to the guy about how gently he should treat a woman. Maybe she was just soldiering on with the agenda, but again it seemed like another chasm of misunderstanding was opening between her and her fans.
Caveat Emptor: Not to say that this wasn’t a hell of a great show and plenty of people didn’t have a kick-ass time. Maybe it’s the blitz of touring recently that caused the wooziness in the performance, or the strangeness of suddenly being faced with a different crowd than the one that’s been following vintage funk’s resurgence since the late 90s. Surely it was only noticeable to me because I couldn’t move around enough to disco, or even get to the front. As the encore began I wormed my way through the columns to the more enthusiastic section. As the band started up a fantastic grinding version of What Have You Done for Me Lately and the guy with the giant Jewfro started slapping both hands on the stage, I felt like everyone around finally just let go and started bobbing. If only we could have connected that way the whole time with the music rather than the audience’s shenanigans, it would have been perfect. No matter what, it wasn’t for lack of effort on Sharon’s part (Miss Jones if you’re nasty… [which I am]). YMMV.