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Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings @ Club Nokia, 1/25/09
Four words I never thought I would hear uttered at Club Nokia issued from young woman from the crowd. "I love your accordion!" she screamed. Next to me a drunken man in a plaid fedora raised his hands in double devil horns while stomping his feet. Really I thought that sort of thing was reserved for polka festivals and street fairs, but I guess I was wrong. You might well ask, who was inducing such fervor from the crowd? Ivan Milev and his band (and by band I mean buddy. He was accompanied by the violinist, Entcho Todorov) opened for Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings on Sunday night. Two middle aged men in button down shirts announced that they were going to play "Bulgarian soul music," and proceeded to melt the crowd's face off with just an accordion and a violin.
Ivan Milev's hands flew up and down his accordion with such speed that if the accordion keys and valves had been red hot coals his fingers would not have been burned. Some how Todorov not only kept up, but competed with Milev's speed. The music had not much melody, but instead flew at a breakneck pace back and forth between the two musicians. It was a united sort of competition though. If Milev had the solo then Todorov would back him up by filling in the bass and rhythm and vice versa. By the end of the set all of the Eastern European soul was beginning to make me long for a bowl of goulash, a giant fur hat, and a one way ticket to Budapest.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - Tell Me
The moment Sharon Jones took the stage, we all knew who's show this really was. Introduced by her band leader as "The baddest sister with the je ne sais quoi" Sharon Jones took the stage in front of her loyal Dap-Kings and proceeded to shake the house to the ground. Before she began her set Ms Jones announced, "I've got to work myself out a little," and began to shimmy on stage while her band played some good old fashioned funk.
At fifty-three, Ms. Jones moves like a woman half her age. Heck, better than a woman half her age. In an orange, sparkly shift dress Jones embodied the golden age of Motown girl bands with her giant band behind her. Her horn section even grooved in unison when they played like their predecessors used to in the 1940s during the big band era.
Most bands are just happy if they can make their crowd dance (especially in Los Angeles) but Sharon Jones was not content. She wanted someone to serenade. She also wanted the crowd to show off their dance moves on the big stage. So every other song, she would invite members of the crowd up on stage. The first victim was Tommy, a well dressed man, who was anything but nervous. While Sharon sang, How Do I Let a Good Man Down? Tommy made sure everyone knew through interpretive dance, that this good man wasn't going to be kept down by anyone.
Over the course of the concert six different men were pulled on stage, each with their unique dance moves which varied from coy to frantic to down right lude. Sharon had some ladies strut their stuff as well. Seven different women of all sizes and shapes got down. One rather suggestive lady had to be cheekily warned by Jones, "Don't embarrass yourself. Leave my musicians alone." At one point a young boy of around nine or ten was put on stage by his parent. Jones scolded his parents for allowing him on stage, although it was clear she was secretly delighted. She then modified Be Easy into a version of "the talk" which we usually get when we hit puberty. The poor kid looked terrified at the beginning, but eventually let the music take over and danced his way out of embarrassment. Which was very impressive. At his age I probably would have stared at my feet and turned beetroot.
The evening closed with a cover of Sam Cooke's A Change is Going to Come which few people can ever do justice. Ms. Jones dedicated the song to our new President and gave a performance that would have made Sam Cooke weep with joy. There was something unflinchingly raw and honest about Sharon Jones' performance. She sings every number as if it was her last moment on earth. It's how we all should sing really. No matter what level of talent we actually possess.
Photos by Sandra Vahtel for the LAist.