SXSW Music: Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings at The Mohawk

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings hearken back to a bygone era of music. Well, soul music hasn’t really faded away. It’s prominence is not what it once was. Further, no artist has had the impact of James Brown “The Godfather of Soul” or the kind of cross-cultural impact that he had.

In today’s continually fracturing niche markets of music driven by the MP3/iPod age, it would be hard to imagine any one artist or act having a similar impact to Brown, or any artist for that matter; but that is another discussion for a different time. That said, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings are easily the best cross over appeal artist to come along in a long while.

Seeing them live felt like stepping into a time portal when soul was the sound of the day. The Dap Kings who feature a horn section, a couple of guitarist, a bongo player, drum and a bass player seemed pretty crammed on stage. On the beautiful day in Austin with crystal clear blue skies and the sun-shining over head on the small, perhaps 20 foot stage at best, the band was tightly packed together.

The Dap Kings were all dressed in suits, a nice nod to the bygone time when wearing a suit wasn’t done as some kind of kitschy thing. The crowd began filling up as the band was setting up the stage. The mixed audience, that perhaps skewed a bit younger began fighting for shaded spots in an attempt to avoid being punished by the unrelenting sun. The closer the band got to having completed their setup the more the outdoor area filled to the back of the room.

By the time setup was complete and the Dap Kings were ready to do their thing the venue felt as if it were at capacity and began to have a certain buzz build in anticipation of the show. When the Dap Kings were ready they opened up by playing some free style grooves to get warmed up and get the crowd ready for Sharon Jones to come out and perform. After a couple of fun, soul infused grooves The Dap Kings were ready and so was Sharon Jones.

Coming out asking if the crowd was ready she received a response but not quite what she wanted. Asking again the crowd popped even louder and she broke into song. While the whole show was energetic and way too short with the typical 30-45 minute set time there were easily two highlights.

The first is when Sharon Jones asked for a single guy from the crowd. Picking one out she brought him up on stage and proceeded to sing a song about how to treat a lady. It closed with her showing him how to dance getting almost a bit raunchy at a couple of points.

The second was when Sharon and the Dap Kings got on a train. The train was stopping in at various stations representing various famous dance moves of the last several decades. It was fun and entertaining to watch feeling almost as if they could go on covering every dance move of the last century as it was an open-ended jam.

The fun show was over almost as quickly as it began. Many might be more familiar with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings if you have seen last year’s film, Up in the Air. The film’s opening credits sequence featured Sharon Jones and the Dap kings track This Land is your Land. If you get a chance to see this group live it is definitely an entertaining show worth catching. Their sound live is almost indiscernible from when it is recorded, of course some of the open ended fun jams they play are missing.

I give Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings at the Mohawk 4.5 “time machines” out of 5

By John Coovert

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