With Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, and Bobby Lee Rodgers Trio
Revolution Live, Fort Lauderdale
January 14, 2012
Better than: Anything that doesn't include Stanton Moore showing how good he is at the drums.
If all good things must end, Saturday night's funk marathon was the best possible way to cap off over a week of South Florida's Jam Cruise-related festivities. Downtown Fort Lauderdale's Revolution Live! music club played host to the official ship disembarkment afterparty -- as if cruisers really needed one after five days of nonstop music at sea.
A cast of familiar New Orleans natives and legends were on deck to represent the brass and soul for which their hometown is known. Despite having played countless hours of music on the boat, the saturation of talent in the building made for three stunning sets with a pattern of each outdoing the next.
Things kicked off on time when the Bobby Lee Rodgers Trio warmed up the stage with a noteworthy six-string display. The former guitarist for the Codetalkers -- and current Col. Bruce Hampton bandmate -- used cuts from his 2011 studio release, BLR, to build deep, hard-hitting grooves that inevitably hit extended solos.
A loose version of "Outerspace" came midset and won over some new fans. Rodgers' hollow-body acoustic/electric guitar filtered through a Leslie rotating organ speaker, giving his tone a unique accent that was both gritty and identifiable. As his fingers worked their way up and down the fretboard with jaw-dropping dexterity, the crowd worked into an early-evening frenzy of fist pumps and head nods. No stranger to the South Florida crowd, Bobby continued a habit of blowing some minds and getting the wheels greased for the night ahead.
The stage curtains closed, and after a quick change they opened again as Orleans Avenue came out of the gate ripping a hybrid soul funk-rock groove. The energy level went from zero to 60 instantly, and they already had the crowd hyped up before the first verse.
Setting the pace for a James Brown-esque display of showmanship, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews ran onstage during the intro. Sporting designer shades and wielding his two brass weapons, Andrews lead the band through a medley of high-energy funk progressions. The opener peaked when the whole band turned on a dime and segued into Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name Of" for a few measures. At that point, it was apparent this was going to be good.
The six-piece outfit features some of the New Orleans young guns that are champing at the bit for a chance to make their mark outside of the French Quarter. But any excuse to grab a solo or drop an intoxicating fill didn't affect the airtight cohesion of the band. Andrews proved the merit of his stage name with triple-tonguing breakdowns and mind-blowing displays of machine-gun horn playing. He also showed off that he can hold down a trumpet and has one hell of a voice.
Drummer Joey Pebbles had a standout performance, and it was his rhythm leadership that took the band into Juvenile's "Slow Motion." The band met in the middle of the stage to teach the crowd a two-step dance before seamlessly teasing Big Tymer's "Get Your Roll On" and Red Hot Chili Pepper's "Give It Away." Paying homage to his idol, the set ended with a sandwich of James Brown hits with a Trombone Shorty twist. Shorty and crew exited with a sinister look of satisfaction coming from the realization that they just melted a few faces in the crowd.
The audience could have left happy after that, but the night was young, and there was still a band full of NOLA talent to be had. Drummer Stanton Moore must have heard the crowd response to Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, called a huddle with his Galactic bandmates, and roused them up to not be out done by the new bloods. The Leslie speaker was now plugged into organist Rich Vogel's Hammond B3, and he had every intention to make it scream.
It quickly became a battle to fill the space in the soundscape as Ben Ellman flexed his signature saxophone chops over Jeff Raines' near-perfect funk guitar licks. The venue had reached a comfortable capacity, and the dance floor was living up to its name. The contagious boogie spread from the front row to the upper-level balcony.
For the next two hours, the two-story room would be transformed into a pulsing sister venue to its Bourbon Street counterparts. Couples were grinding to seductive jazz takes, and the loose patrons were getting rowdy during heavier rock sections. The sextet showed its range by weaving through deep psychedelic segments and then segueing into soulful anthems.
To enhance the latter, the boys brought our vocalist Corey Glover to lead some lyrical efforts and serve as a hype man when the band built into cascading brass peaks. Bassist Robert Mercurio must have caught sight of Orleans Avenue's charismatic four-stringer, because he was putting on a clinic as he pushed bass bombs that vibrated the floor. Virtually every booty in sight was gyrating until the very last note.
The crowd amplified its approval, and a show highlight came from a massive full-band buildup that emptied into a very funked-out release of tension during the encore. Smiles and staggered walking were the norm exiting the New Orleans vortex and returning to the South Florida reality.
The crowd: Old funk heads, young dance-inclined partiers, and Fort Lauderdale socialites. Compared to the Jam Cruise preparty, the room seemed much more comfortable and easy to navigate.
Random detail: Stanton Moore did not sit in during any of the opening sets. This is an unusual revelation for the man who prides himself on playing with everyone.
Overheard in the crowd: "The best music in the world comes out of New Orleans!"