Remember the holidays? They seem so far away already. Most of us are already wrapped up in work, school and what have you, but I’d like to take a look back at the past weekend…
I spent New Year’s Eve Eve with JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, a terrific soul band that seems to have come from nowhere and blown up within the past few months. I first heard about these guys when I came across one of their singles in a local release section of one of my favorite record stores last summer. I bought it on a whim and fell in love with their homage to Motown and Stax, but I had no idea until I got their record and went to this show how deep it goes. This is much more than a kitschy retro band. These guys are the real deal, a true continuation of ’60s and ’70s R&B, soul and funk.
The opener, Green Room Rockers, was your typical funk-lite reggae group, but I did admire their conviction and the lack of irony with which they played their Sublime inspired jam-pop. However, their set went on far too long and it started to wear on me.
JC Brooks was insatiable, and the perfect example after the opener of what good stage presence can do. Sure, there is a throwback aspect to his onstage gimmicks, but unlike Green Room Rockers, the Uptown Sound’s love of their music transcends the basic shtick, allowing them to dig deep and write some songs that can stand up to their favorites.
His handling of the ballads was equally as compelling as the harder-hitting numbers, and I was really struck by how capable his voice was, something I guess didn’t stick as much on record. Even now when I go back to it, I don’t get the same feeling as I did in the room with him.
Still, a great voice can be squandered without the proper backing band. Fortunately, anyone who was worried can rest assured that the Uptown Sound is more than capable, matching if not exceeding the talent of Mr. Brooks. Without being showy (again, a huge stumbling block for the opener), these guys can grab an audience and really get them into the groove. After all, this was nearly New Year’s, so the main priority seemed to be getting people to dance.
I enter the new year continually amazed at the breadth of talent at my front door, and I ask you: Why, as a music fan, would you want to live anywhere else?
Note: Danny is an intern at Schubas.
- JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound is Chicago-based and is: JC Brooks (vocals), Billy Bungeroth (guitar), Kevin Marks (drums), Andy Rosenstein (keys) and Ben Taylor (bass).
- The band plays The Vic on January 14 for $22 (plus fees). | Tickets