LATE NIGHT STARRING KARL DENSON

When it comes to late night shows in New Orleans, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe is the reigning royal family. I don't think I've ever been to NOLA when Karl wasn't playing several late night gigs. This NOLAWEEN proved to be no different.

Saturday October 27, 2001
Karl Denson's Tiny Universe hit the stage at Voodoo Fest following Gov't Mule, but not before Karl came out and slapped that Mule around with his sax. Karl joined Gov't Mule for "Where's My Mule" which segued into Tower Of Power's "What is Hip", back into "Where's My Mule". Karl was fiery on the sax as Warren was layin' down the hottest blues licks ever displayed at Voodoo Fest. Those two songs alone were worth the twenty-five dollar festival ticket, but more was sure to come.

Voodoo Fest was running an hour late before the Mule came on, thanks to Snoop Dogg's long Chronic set. As Snoop was taking a Chronic break on stage, he was told he had five minutes to play. Snoop responded quickly with "fuck you, Snoop is on the stage, nobody tells Snoop to get off the stage. Now you just sit back and let Snoop do his thang, when I'm done, I'll get off the fuckin' stage." With that said Snoop lit up the stage with another song. Shortly after the Snoop diatribe, Gov't Mule hit the stage to perform their solid down south set. Following Gov't Mule it must have taken over an hour to get Karl up on the stage.

Karl opened the show with "Thirty-Two" and then went into "Rump Winder". This was followed by the booty shakin' "Barbecue song." Karl was preachin' to the fellas, and from what I could see, alot of them needed the help. In the middle of "BBQ," we decided to hit the road. Upon returning to our hotel, I found out after "BBQ," Warren Haynes came on stage and helped KDTU out with "Spanish Castle Magic." I think it's great to see the two different styles of music that Karl and Warren play, blended together to bring a joyful sound.

Getting to Voodoo Fest late and leaving early, we only got to see a few bands, but what I did see left me salivating for more.

Later that night, Karl played the Saenger Theatre with opening band Robert Walter's 20th Congress. This was the most anticipated show of the weekend as fans of both Robert and Karl were expecting a Grey Boy All-Star reunion. It was not to be on this night as Chris Stillwell (20th Congress bass and former bass player for Greyboy) was not in the house. He had to leave due to a family emergency. We all wish you well Chris. The 20th Congress took to the stage and delivered a fine helping of funk. Cochemea was as impressive as ever on the sax, and Karl came out to jam with him on a couple of tunes. Though there was no bass, Robert filled in those missing bass licks with his intricate work on the keys. After laying some heavy funk on the crowd, the 20th Congress left the stage leaving the crowd chanting for more.

As the lights grew dim, the shadows of the Greek statues that surround the inside walls of the Saenger, took their places on the ceiling. The Tiny Universe started the night off with a crowd favorite "Ruff Tuff and Tumble." Next on the list was a funky new song by Tiny Universe guitarist Brian Jordan, entitled "Beliefism." If this is any hint of what Brian Jordan's upcoming solo album is going to be like, I can't wait for it's release. A Fela Kuti tribute song, "Elephants" followed. This song is heavy on percussion and really gets the crowd moving and actually became one of my favorite Tiny Universe songs. The next song, which I don't know the name of was much jazzier, and I can tell you the crowd really enjoyed this one as well.

After a couple second breather, Karl danced up to the mike and screamed out "Think About the Good Times Baby" and went into "Think." Having the crowd jumping out of their shoes, the Tiny Universe segued into "Mighty Mouse." After moving the crowd a bit too hard, they changed the tempo and slowed things down a bit with another new jazzy, slow song.

"The Bridge" was next and featured Mike Dillon of Critters Buggin' on a Timbale Jam. This is one guy who really added a lot to the Tiny Universe sound. His solo's on the percussion are amazing, not to mention the wonderful use of the vibraphone that he brought into the mix. Mike's solo was followed by a keyboard solo from David Veith. "Bridge" had a trippy ending and slowly faded out, and bled into "Groove On" to close the set. After allowing everyone to take a solo, each musician left the stage one at a time until Brian Jordan was left keeping the rhythm on his jazz guitar. He left the stage and the lights came up revealing the smiles that were plastered across everyone's face..

Second set began with "Latin Snap." By the title you know this song is loaded with Latin flava'. "Soul Vibration" was next, followed by "Steamed Water." Sax player Cochemea from the 20th Congress came out on sax. He and Karl traded licks and as the song ended Karl grabbed his flute and went straight into a spacey flute solo. The flute solo ended and dropped into "The BBQ Song," also known as "Fallin'." "The BBQ Song" also featured Cochemea on sax. The sax jam in the middle took the horn players into a New Orleans style jam with Karl, Cochemea and Karl's new trumpet man, Chris Littlefield, filling the air with the sound of Dixie. "Who Are You," a song featured on Karl's album Dance Lesson #2, ended the set. This was the best version of "Who Are You" I have ever heard. The band was layering the lyrics "you can't front on the funk, no matter how hard you try" throughout the entire song. The band left the stage and returned shortly after for an encore, entitled "The Hen." This was a wonderful evening to be had at the Saenger. After having such a good time it's no mystery why this is my favorite theater, and to have the opportunity to get your groove on in such a classy venue is a privilege.


Sunday October 28, 2001

Karl Denson's Tiny Universe House of Blues show did not start until 2:15 am. They began the night with the classic "Emperor" before jumping into the crowd favorite "Front Money." This song has a heavy funk beat and always has the crowd moving.

"Family Tree" was next followed by one of my favorites "If It's Good For You." This is another high-energy funk song that allows for some awesome horn solos. At the end of Good For You Stanton Moore, Galactic's drummer, took over for Zak Najor on the skins. Stanton had a furious solo that featured he and Mike Dillon trading off drums beats. "The BBQ Song" was next and featured Karl Denson on vocals. Karl has added a funky, "who's that dressed so scandalous" rap in the middle of this song again adding to the Tiny Universe style. Title track from Karl's new album Dance Lesson #2 was next, followed by "Rump Winder."

The entire Deep Banana Blackout crew was in da' house to see the Tiny Universe, so Karl invited DBB singer Hope Clayburn on the stage to take a flute solo. Hope's flute solo ended the song and as she left the stage the crowd started the Deep Banana Blackout chant. Hope ran off the stage, but soon returned to the front row for the rest of the show.

Karl then pulled drummer Derrick Seager out of the crowd to keep the beat during "Bunny Player." James Brown's "Big Pay Back" would be the last song of the evening for the Tiny Universe. It seems that the House Of Rules sunrise shows don't really go on to sunrise. To the disappointment of all, they ended the show shortly after 4:00am, without an encore.

The show was fun and the sweaty crowd poured out of the House Of Rules. Many of the Funkoholics made plans to meet at the Garden District's Igor's for one last drink to close out Nolaween 2001. There is just something about sitting at Igor's drinking beers at seven 'o clock in the morning, watching the early morning joggers run by, and the cars of people passing by commuting to work that is so anti-establishment. That is why I love New Orleans.

[Published on: 11/1/01]

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