Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings at the Crystal Ballroom
Portland, Oregon, January 30, 2009
Sharon Jones makes you sweat. Her moves and voice pull sweat from your skin like blood rising in a hickey. Even in the damp cold of a Portland night, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings had hundreds of hipsters dancing and sweating like they were extras in a 60s soul revue.
As has been documented here, I recently moved to Portland, Oregon. Now that GLONO’s Northwest office is up and running I finally got out to a show. We made our way through the fog and drizzle to the Crystal Ballroom in downtown Portland. For over 90 years, the Crystal Ballroom has been a premier music venue in this city. Everyone you can think of has played there; from Little Richard to Buffalo Springfield to the Grateful Dead to Liz Phair. I was excited to see it as much as I was to see one of my favorite bands.
The first thing anyone in Portland tells you when they hear you’re going to the Crystal Ballroom is, “the floors bounce!” And it’s true, they do. The floors are spring-loaded because along with hosting bands all these years it’s also been a dancehall. What better combination to entice a hall full of kids in baggy pants and hoodies to shake they asses and lose their detached cool, if for just a little while.
Ms. Jones is a born performer and has at her disposal a number of time tested tricks and gimmicks. One of the more endearing is her invitation to members of the crowd to come up and dance on stage with her. It’s endearing because she seems to genuinely enjoy it and that she inevitably pulls up some girls high on energy but low on groove or some overzealous fellas who probably gained most of their moves from Solid Gold. Each time becomes a public lesson in how to boogie without looking like a bonehead. Ms. Jones approaches each with care and patience…and then dismisses them back to the clumsy masses.
Sharon Jones is the star, as you might expect. But her band is the soul. Made up of mostly white guys half her age, the Dap Kings turn out funky lines with absolute precision, but not at the cost of a good time. The Dap Kings don’t move a lot on stage but that may be because all that kinetic energy is sucked up by Sharon Jones. That leaves the musicians to focus on the music and they concentrate that focus on laying down that groove. It’s no wonder Sharon Jones can’t stop moving.
Video: Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – new unrecorded song (live, January 28, 2009)