ast night, as the residents of our great state were celebrating Pioneer Day (or Pie n’ Beer day), a stalwart turnout of Twilight diehards banded together for what was anticipated by many as the dark horse, barn-burning show of the entire Twilight season – a Daptone Records double header starring The Screamin’ Eagle of Soul: Charles Bradley and Afro-beat, Staten Island badasses: The Budos Band.
Right out of the gates, The Budos Band made their presence know, ushering in their unique vibe of Louisiana, 60’s era biker-bar-black-magic/Afro-beat that could even send a chill up Rust Cohle’s spine. Daniel Foder, wielding his bass guitar like and upright bass and Thomas Brenneck (Guitar) combined to absolutely scorch the first view tracks. Black Venom, a Budos classic, proved to be even meaner and unrelenting than I imagined. A particular high point for me of their set.
Band leader Jared Tankel (and what appeared to be a 6′ baritone sax) commanded both the band and the crowd, leading claps and cheers – the absolute epitome of cool. But it was Mike Deller’s organ and mic’d Leslie speaker that each of these sounds and personas coalesced around. It’s the organ that gives Budos their unique sound. . . like a Voodoo spell laced into every song and that has infected each of the instruments.
The band finished off their set with a few new songs from their upcoming album, Burnt Offering (2014) which is an intentional move away from their established sound (see here). Overall and absolutely epic set. Paving the way perfectly for the main event of the night: Mr. Charles Bradley.
For those not familiar with Charles Bradley (yet), imagine a complete throw-back to 1960’s R&B and Soul, circa STAX and Motown. Today, musicians are busy forging new paths of music exploration. Blending genres or meshing old sounds with new. This is not one of those. Daptone producers are purists. Revivalists. The Sharon Jones’ or Charles Bradley’s of the world are not reinventions of a genre, but rather a rebirth of an era. When Charles takes the stage you feel and see something that, to a large degree, has been lost in today’s search for the next American Voice. You feel soul. You feel a connection. You hear truth, derived from experience, sung from a place that makes you both optimistically hopeful, while infinitely sad. It’s tangible and real.
Back at the Twilight show, the crowd began to push up as the Menahan Street Band took the stage and started the set. 5 minutes in, Budos drummer Brian Profilio (pretty blasted by this point) appeared on stage to deliver an elaborate, James Brown-style introduction. The crowd roared to life as the Screamin’ Eagle himself, clad in a white suit trimmed in gold, took center stage. Without missing a beat he leaned into a my favorite, and most heart-wrenching song in his book, “Heartaches And Pain“. The story of his brother’s death.
The energy continued to drive up through an inspired “The World (Is Goin’ Up In Flames)” where Bradley broke beyond his trademark eagle wings / robot-man dance moves to get into some footwork, ending with the splits. He left the stage briefly afterward, causing more than one audience member to wonder if the 66ish year old front-man had pulled his groin, only to return in a shiny new black suit – pushing straight into an old classic “Ain’t It A Sin.” And killed it.
That groove continued to roll on through the rest of his set, with breaks between songs where Charles expressed his deep and personal love for the crowd for being intricate in “making (his) dreams come true.” And it wasn’t lip service.
Remember, as of 2011, Charles was living in the Brooklyn projects, unable to read beyond a 1st grade level. His brother had been shot and killed in an attempted mugging and Charles was left as the sole provider for his ailing mother as a part-time James Brown impersonator. For all of us Charles Bradley fans, his sudden 3-year rise to stardom has been both amazing and deeply personal to us all. A window of sorts into the life of a rising phoenix, or rather, a Screamin’ Eagle.