JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound and Escort
The Bell House
November 23, 2013
With the end of the year quickly approaching, I’ve been attempting to catch up with as much as I humanly can both at my day job and with the blog – and i wouldn’t be surprised that some things just carry over into the New Year. Such is the life of a busy blogger, right?
Towards the end of November, I was at the Bell House in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn to catch Chicago-based soul act JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, and the 17 member Brooklyn-based blogosphere and dance music sensation Escort.
I was familiar with JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, thanks to their soulful cover of Wilco’s “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” which if anything reveals that Jeff Tweedy is a particularly gifted songwriter, and that when truly inspired the band has ability to come up with a nifty rearrangement, that brings a new interpretation to material. However, I have to admit that despite the fact that I sincerely wanted to like the band, i found them extremely disappointing live. Their material, which owed a great debt to Muscle Shoals lacked a sense of originality and vitality – the songs kind of plodded a bit and did very little for me. In fact, other than the Wilco cover, the material I heard was largely forgettable.
Sadly, the band struck me as being particularly uncomfortable, as though they were playing their first sets as a live band (which clearly wasn’t the case); were at the end of a lengthy tour; not quite ready for a New York area stage; or worse yet, just painfully awkward (which would be highly unusual for nationally known bands). It’s a bad sign when you’re spending more time paying attention to the percussionist who’s enthusiastically banging away at tambourines and cymbals instead of the band’s lead vocalist. Although known nationally, JC Brooks and his Uptown Sound can’t possibly touch the likes of the incredible Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings or the “Screaming Eagle of Soul” himself, Charles Bradley.
I caught the Brooklyn-based 17 member dance music and blogosphere darlings Escort play at their first annual Escort Halloween ball with St. Lucia, and I was thoroughly impressed by them – after all, their sound is essentially a modern take on the once popular disco sound. In an age in which minimalism has become the norm in electronica, their expansive sound complete with an incredibly funky bass lines, strings upon strings upon strings, and a pulsating sensual energy is refreshing. especially if you’re familiar with the work of the legendary Giorgio Moroder. Although slickly produced, Escort’s all-around All-Star manages to be the charismatic and gorgeous Adeline Michele. Sure, Beyonce is sassy and fierce but Adeline Michele manages to be naturally fiercer and sassier. How she’s not a mega-star yet manages to reveal that the universe still manages to be egregiously unfair and unjust. And I was impressed by the fact that she shared bass duties with the band’s bassist, allowing him to switch to guitar for a number of songs.
Escort’s sound is warmly familiar and yet somewhat new – hell it’s disco with modern recording techniques and a greater emphasis on live instrumentation and synths. But their sound has a beating heart, and it manages to make people want to party all night. I don’t know how I managed to take pics and dance simultaneously but I managed just like the rest of the Bell House crowd. You want to have a great party, catch these guys before they become the next big thing.
For these photos and the rest of the photos from this night of live music, check out the Flickr set here: