Words by: Chadbyrne R. Dickens | Images by: Joe Russo
HeadCount Participation Tour :: 11.05.12 :: Highline Ballroom :: New York, NY
Full review below the gallery!
Ironic, sometimes the worst moments in life can bring out the best in humanity. During the last days of October, Hurricane Sandy, the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, affected at least 24 states, with the most severe damage hitting New Jersey and New York, where streets, tunnels and subways flooded and at least 193 people were killed. Crippling the tri-state area with catastrophic damage, the “Frankenstorm” seemingly left the “city that never sleeps” – eerily asleep. With $52 billion in damage and over 5 million homes without power, it is imperative for citizens to bond together in in order to assist those negatively affected.
|Dumpstaphunk by Joe Russo|
On November 5 at the Highline Ballroom in New York City, HeadCount had scheduled the 5th and final concert in a series to promote the vote. With the devastation of Sandy, HeadCount, along with Magic Hat Brewing Company, CEG Presents, with assistance from Blue Note Entertainment Group and Nolafunk.com, admirably altered the focus of an organized assemblage of talent into a benefit show for those affected by Hurricane Sandy, with all ticket sales allocated for donation to City Harvest and other storm relief outlets. Dumpstaphunk’s Nick Daniels summed up the thoughts of many participating, “It's an honor to be a part of this, during Katrina so many people came to my and my wife’s emotional rescue, so I can relate to the process. It makes sense that we were able help for this cause. Dumpstaphunk knows a thing or two about hurricanes, so whatever we can do to help, we will. We are truly honored.”
Luther Dickinson commenced the evening‘s gig with a stellar hour-long set of his patented blues on his electric with an ensemble that included his brother Cody on drums, Scott Metzger from Wolf! on guitar, and Nikki Glaspie from Dumpstafunk on the drums. Luther stopped, and with a jubilant aside to the blossoming crowd, “It feels so good in here tonight, don’t it? Damn!” Eric Krasno, lead guitarist from Soulive, surprised by joining in the festive jam on bass guitar as the first official jam session of the evening began. The impromptu guitar call-and-response between the stalwarts was mesmerizing, with Krasno’s countenance while playing bass complete with more of an intense serious scowl as opposed to when he is playing his axe, was something to behold in the intimate and spacious Highline Ballroom environment. They bounced through a bombastic “Shake ‘Em On Down” and an intensely electifying “Po Black Maddie>Skinny Woman” that left the joyous crowd in awe. An unannounced Nigel Hall pounced on the keys as TAB trumpeter James Casey sat-in next to him on the ivories, while Questlove from The Roots added his flair on a smaller drum kit beside Glaspie.
|Luther Dickinson by Joe Russo|
Bela Fleck, widely considered to be one of the most proficient banjo players in the world, followed with a 25-minute eloquent solo pickin’ clinic that included tunes he claimed to have picked up while in Africa, and a rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” which proved apropos considering the theme of the event. As the production crew furiously worked to switch stages, Questlove provided an interesting DJ set that seemed somewhat incongruous considering the other genres of music his set was sandwiched between on the bill, but quite effectively energized the crowd commencing with “We Will Rock You” before seguing into his traditional and familiar Hip Hop.
Andy Bernstein, Executive Director of HeadCount, addressed the crowd, hilarious and controversial Comedian W. Kamau Bell and many others used the mic to remind the attendees to get out to vote, yet the evening remained pleasantly non-political. Limited edition guitars were signed by all participants and auctioned off in an effort to garner more funds for the relief fund. The orange Magic Hat van remained parked out front of the smoking section playing the film, “Airheads” on a loop.
|Questlove by Joe Russo|
Just before 11pm, the celebrated New Orleans funk outfit and headliner, Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk, brought the Mardi Gras party to a packed, exuberant audience. Those not familiar with the groove-driven group have never witnessed the force a powerful double-bassed band can drill into one’s groove. Tony Hall and Nick Daniels popped bass lines in duality, providing the backdrop for Ivan to pine at the keys and pound the microphone with soul. With a couple members adorning Saints jerseys, one was unwittingly reminded of the band’s NOLA roots, but it also served as a subtle reminder of the similar heartache that had occurred in their hometown during Katrina, where thousands were herded into that football team’s Superdome. The importance of the event was not lost on bassist Tony Hall, who also shared his prowess on the electric guitar, “Getting together to promote voting is one good thing, but to help Sandy victims with a benefit makes it double. Don’t take voting for granted, watching CNN, Florida is trying to suppress votes. If people can spend millions on advertising to be elected, there shouldn’t be a homeless person in America!”
Often, an emotional event like a benefit with the inherent crowd energy can inspire a band to play off it and buoy the performance to the next level. Dumpstaphunk delivered a delicious night relished with euphoric revelry. With set list selections of their strongest and best known tunes, fans were seen sweating and gasping for air during hours of non-stop body swaying and head bobbing. Highlights included an impressive cover of Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under a Groove” and an incredible “Meanwhile” with Warren Haynes Band bassist, Ron Johnson. With Nigel Hall on keys, Ivan Neville picked up an electric and a night of surprises continued to keep the ravished crowed guessing. Adam Smirnoff, extraordinary guitarist from Lettuce, appeared and the all-star line-up provided classic funk staple covers by The Meters and Sly until all in attendance were well satiated around 1:00am. Most would accede that Sly and the Family Stone, The Meters and Parliament with George Clinton are the greatest funk acts in history. Currently playing in a scene amongst current funk tour-de-force outfits like Lettuce and Galactic, Dumpstaphunk has earned a reputation for many as not only most prolific today, but quickly ascending up the ranks.
|Ian Neville and Adam Smirnoff by Joe Russo|
As a concert experience, the show surprised even the most ardent fan in its professional organization and seamless exquisite delivery. As a benefit for those in need, it was an example of the human spirit’s innate ability to come together for a greater altruistic cause in light of the challenges.
JamBase | HeadCount
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