Last time I set foot in the Classic Grand, Jamaica Street, was in the mid 1970s. My friend Spike and I went to see an X-certificate (18 - yes, we were both underage)
Tonight I returned with my wife to the now-converted rock club & live music venue that is the repurposed Classic Grand. As before, the motivation was music. We arrived, as seems usual for us nowadays, just as the last band of this YRock-organised evening took to the stage at 9:30 :-(so we missed all of Picnic Railway, Erin Todd, Rosie Bans, and Motion Play)-:
Named for the King of the Hill Oklahoma City pimp voiced by Snoop Dogg, Alabaster Jones are a band with a solid direction, and that direction is funk. Unwavering, uncompromising, and unadulterated, even though alternative. Now, maybe they will develop an appetite for greater variety one day, when they're free to play longer sets than tonight's (the very, very best part of an hour). That should be quite a day. For who would dare to predict what musical dissertations a band, who number among their influences Prince, Hendrix, and The Mars Volta, might end up writing? But until then, they're playing a winning formula with this relentlessly dirty, alt-funk groove odyssey which they do so well.
Front and centre on keys and main vocals is Paul Loughran, who after the opening one-two salvo of Too Late and Pure Gold, complains about being hit in the back of the legs by the bass drum. The quality keeps rolling out with Brand New Day and the hugely original and catchy Superkrunk! - Andy Mushet's slap happy bass melds satisfyingly with tight syncopation from Liam Cutkelvin's drumwork, turning all of us into dancing fools. Paul answers a certain heckler shouting "Get a haircut!" with "I can't believe I've just been told to get a haircut by my dad!"
What's that intro sound? Wailing and noodling like... is it Pink Floyd again? Dire Straits? Nah, it's Funkatron! A sad story maybe ("That's why I'm mean..."), but in seconds we're back in that familiar warm and funky groove again.
Down In The Mud is a new song they're premiering at tonight's gig, but I've already downloaded and learned it from Soundcloud, so I'm singing along as Paul gives his humongous keyboard a rest, cavorting and vocalising instead like some over-animated Jay Kay. There's some particularly lovely guitar sketches by maestro Adam Millar in this performance tonight. Next, Funkatron part 2: where the party is at gives all three front men a good workout in vocal harmonies, to great effect. And Grease The Wheels (bring me the butter) provides a fitting Zappaesque finale, reaffirming the band's quirky sense of humour, and sending us off still dancing.
Tonight's gig was filmed. Professionally, with two cameras an' everything! Unfortunately that meant that we couldn't really stroll up to the front to get any action photos of our own, not without spoiling the video project. Second downer of the night: the bar shuts at 10, in order to let the venue reopen as a club at 11. This meant some people had to be happy with one drink, when the ideal number would obviously have been something more in the region of two.
Great gig though. Huge fun. Setlist (with Soundcloud links where available):
- Too Late
- Pure Gold
- Brand New Day
- Down In The Mud
- Funkatron part 2: where the party is at
- Grease The Wheels (bring me the butter)