JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound at the Beachland Tavern, Cleveland, OH, 12.1.11

Hey, kids! Trying to get back on the pony after a tumultuous time, so here’s my criminally-overdue review of an incredible show.

I was in love and angry that night I headed down to the Beachland to see JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound. In Cleveland, we know a lot about being in love and angry. It’s a way of life, from how we feel about our sports teams to how we feel about the way our local government treats our city to the personal stories that play out on every street, every day. And there are many ways to deal with this way of being – some constructive, some violent, some destructive in subtle ways.

JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound saw to it that I worked it out through physical abandon. What I’m saying is, dudes’ll make you dance.

It’s clear from the get-go that JCBUS come with the strong intent to grab the crowd and move it. Echoing charismatic performers who have come before, the Uptown Sound started the show by playing an intstrumental groove, a little appetizer to give a taste of what was coming. Then over the boogie, keyboardist Andy Rosenstein prepped the crowd before he announced the man, who had been sequestered in the back until his grand entrance. Resplendent in white dinner jacket, black slacks and Janelle Monáe ‘do, Brooks set about engaging the crowd without hesitation and with no lack of confidence, though free of ego. I know I can make you dance, his demeanor projected, but I know you can leave, too, so I’m glad you’re here, and if you give me a chance, I know you’ll like what I’ve got for you.

With this attitude, it didn’t take long for Brooks to have the room (with a decent number of people on hand for a weeknight show in the Tavern) on his side. And like a lover who lives for giving pleasure, JCBUS weren’t going to let up once they hit that spot that made the crowd go, “Oh yes!” Pulling out a playlist that drew heavily from their latest album Want More (“Everything Will be Fine”, “Bad News”, “Sister Ray Charles”, etc.), a tune or two from earlier albums (“Baltimore is the New Brooklyn”, “The Beat of Our Own Drum”) and a couple of sing-along-with-me-now covers (“Tainted Love”, “I am Trying to Break Your Heart”), each song seemed to build upon the intensity of the previous one. Just when you thought they had blown their load by blowing the doors off the place with one song, they took the roof down with the next song. By the end of their heartily-demanded encore, there wasn’t a metaphorical beam or rafter left standing.

And while they had torn the place down, I felt built up. Many of the songs seemed to speak directly to my situation at the time, and moving my ass and stomping my feet to the fine-edged soul of JCBUS had a cathartic effect. “Things are shitty,” the music seemed to agree with me, “and the future doesn’t look too bright, but you’ve been through heavier trials than this before. You’ll come out the other side intact… and until then, don’t forget that booze and drugs are fun!”

In a year of great shows, JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound was one of the best I attended. If you have the chance, I cannot urge you strongly enough to check out this genuinely fun and entertaining show from this tight, hot group.

I don’t have photos or video of the night due to technical difficulties (damn battery-hog camera), but check out the video below of a different show (and more here) for a taste.


Feature photo by Nate Burrell, courtesy of KDHX

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