New column alert! We here at FIPS spend a hell of a lot of time out and about in Brooklyn, attending outdoor concerts, comedy shows and various other events. So [FIPS Was There...] is where we're gonna' talk about all this shit.
Park Slope's classic soul series, Dig Deeper, celebrated its exit from the terrible twos last night with a smooth-as-satin set from Chicago soulster Lou Pride at Southpaw. The AC was nipple-erect cold, the audience was as white as their dance moves, and the tunes were good-old-fashioned R&B.
If you want to check out some solid, old-school musicianship, honest-to-god band leaders, and true voices from the early years of soul, check out Dig Deeper. For three years, the series' producers, Michael Robinson and DJ Honky (heh, at least he's not trying to fool anyone), have scoured the vinyl for classic acts and brought them to the Slope. Calling out from the Southpaw stage have been the passionately cool sounds of Otis Clay, Lee Fields, The Green Berets, Syl Johnson (twice), Barbara Whitney and more.
The Dig Deeper scene's a little different for a Brooklyn live-music set. You might feel young if you're in your twenties or early thirties, but the nearing-middle-age dudes wore hipper diamond-patterned sweaters than your dad (probably). I'll admit to seeing some blissfully-unaware, horrid white-guy dancing. Dude wore shorts and a polo shirt with sunglasses perched on his crown. Wherever he was, rhythm resided on the opposite side of the room. Oh, but he was having a good time, so who am I to judge?
That's the other thing: the crowd truly appreciates (and knows) this music and these musicians. Michael Robinson, the series' towering ringleader with a startling mop of long, thin grey hair and a British broadcaster's voice, clearly shares the same enthusiasm -- perceptible even through the gauze of his sometimes cringe-worthy, fake stage presence (he sounds like an overly slick producer who's forgotten his own voice. "It's hot outside. But it's going to be even hotter...On stage." Barf).
One of three Dig Deeper house bands, The Solid Set, both opened the show and backed up Mr. Pride. The Solid Set's own lead singer, all vampy curves in a glittery, sequined top, commanded the stage with some good-natured attitude. My favorite bit: when she, literally and figuratively, sang the praises of "what the media calls 'fat girls,'" shimmying her own curves in demonstration. Second favorite: "We're available for gay weddings." Big cheer. The Set's own music funked up the joint a bit more than Lou Pride's -- the bass line was prominent, funky and melodic, driving the songs.
Lou Pride hit the stage with cool authority, sauntering on in a natty, three-piece, pin-striped suit to intro beats laid down by The Solid Set. After the voices, the best reason to see these performers is stage presence: Dudes know how lead a band and charm a crowd. During a particularly hot solo from the guitarist, Pride commanded, "You sound good, say it again, son!" Pride fills the stage with his big, broad-shouldered frame and the likable authority of a cool-dad-meets-confident-flirt. He lent the expressiveness of an actor to the sad songs and a mix of spry dance steps (and some Cosby-esque torso dancing) to the funkier numbers.
With all his years in the business, Pride also won over the crowd with back stories to his music career. He intro'd one of his biggest hits, "I'm Com'un Home in the Morn'un": "In 1972, I recorded this song. Guess what? #1 in England for 9 weeks. I outsold The Who and The Beatles." But his biggest gift is, of course, the voice: as smooth as the red-satin lining to his coat, malleable to the song's emotion and possessed of a strangely pleasant nasal tone. He closed the regular set, eyes sparkling with mischief, calling out in a delicate falsetto, "If you just believe in me, love will make it all right," clasping hands like an old incorrigible with the ladies in the front rows.