A Good Read, a Good Listen, and a Good Drink: JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound


It’s a simple yet sublime pleasure, and just thinking about it can make you feel a little calmer, a little more content. Imagine: You bring out one of the good rocks glasses (or your favorite mug or a special occasion tea cup) and pour a couple fingers of amber liquid (or something dark and strong or just some whole milk). You drop the needle on the jazz platter (or pull up a blues album on your mp3 player or dig out that mixtape from college). Ensconcing yourself in the coziest seat in the house, you crack the spine on a classic (or find your place in that sci-fi paperback or pull up a biography on your e-book reader). And then, you go away for a while. Ah, bliss.

In this series, some of NTSIB’s friends share beloved albums, books and drinks to recommend or inspire.


I’ve effused about JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound’s rump-shaking soul and phenomenal live show more than once. They are just really fucking good, people! And in advance of their return to Cleveland this Sunday, Uptown men Andy Rosenstein (keys) and Kevin Marks (drums) have given us some fine recommendations


Andy says: I’d suggest reading Hardboiled Wonderland and The End Of The World by Haruki Murakami while drinking a Manhattan and listening to Charles Mingus’ East Coasting. When Mingus ends, put on Talkie Walkie by Air. (Bonus enjoyment if you do your reading in the bathtub.)


“Memories of You” – Charles Mingus


“Venus” – Air


Kevin says: Anything by Hemingway, a bottle of Jameson and Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew and see where that gets ya.


“Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” – Miles Davis


For a little taste of what you’ll experience Sunday night, here’s a KEXP session recorded not long before JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound’s previous Cleveland appearance back in November.



Sun, Aug 19 | 8:30 PM (7:30 PM door)
JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound

R.A. Washington & The Family Dollar
DJ Charles McGaw spins before & between sets

$10.00 adv / $12.00 dos
Tavern | All Ages


JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound

The Beachland Ballroom & Tavern


JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound Return to Cleveland + mp3

In the time since we lost wrote about JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, you may have seen their name thrown around some more, garnering more fans with their incredible live shows, and being added to this year’s Lollapalooza lineup. And maybe you’ve become curious enough to want to experience the ass-moving power for yourself. Or, at least, you damn well should have.

But do you want more (eh? See what I did there?) to entice you? Check out the video for “Sister Ray Charles” (eh? See what they did there?) below and download the mp3.



Download: “Sister Ray Charles” – JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound


Now that you realize the regret that would dog you all the days of your life if you didn’t experience this fantastic band of entertainers live, mark your calendar for August 19, when JCBUS will return to the Beachland Tavern. R.A. Washington and the Family Dollar will play support (Washington was named among the most interesting people of 2012 by Cleveland Magazine) and DJ Charles McGaw will keep the sounds rolling between sets. I cannot properly express here how worth your time this show is, so go see and hear for yourself.

Sun, Aug 19 | 8:30 PM (7:30 PM door)
JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound

R.A. Washington & The Family Dollar
DJ Charles McGaw spins before & between sets

$10.00 adv / $12.00 dos
Tavern | All Ages


JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound

The Beachland Ballroom & Tavern


JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, St. Louis, MO, 4.21.12

Nate Burrell has once again generously allowed us to feature his great photography here on NTSIB. This Record Store Day found JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound in St. Louis where they made an in-store appearance at Euclid Records, then played an intimate house party.

About the house party performance, Nate says, “It was a sweaty mess that saw an unfiltered JCB and crew pouring out energy over two air tight 45 minute sets. Although not on a stage…they performed like they were at the Apollo and had everyone in the room singing their praises by the night’s end.” (Which echoes my sentiments after seeing them play the Beachland Tavern back in November.)

Nate goes on to say, “St. Louis and KDHX helped break JCB into a wider audience, and our city shows them hella love every time they come around. And they show us love back by putting on these types of rare shows.”

Going a little experimental this time out, Nate used PX 600 Silver Shade film for Polaroid. I’m a fan of Polaroids, and I think you’ll agree that Nate caught some beautiful and dynamic shots.


[#1-5 = Euclid Records in-store]
[#6-20 = house party]


Photos by Nate Burrell, courtesy of KDHX

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

JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound in Cleveland TONIGHT!


CLE, who of you will be out at the Beachland booty-shakin’ with me tonight? JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound will be working out their soul thang in the Tavern.



You can download an mp3 of the above song from Rolling Stone.

Then get yourself to the Beachland and say hey. As always, I welcome you to buy your favorite blogger a drink.

Thu, Dec 1 | 8:30 PM (8 PM door)
JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound
Aphrodite’s Hero
DJ Charles McGaw
Tavern | All Ages

JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound: If Life Was Easy As a Song


JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound release their Bloodshot Records debut, Want More, today and it is a fine, fine soul album that feels and breathes and dances with a deep shimmy, not playing out as a lifeless set-piece as can easily happen when a modern band takes up a sound closely associated with an earlier era. Lyrically, it’s a relatable album that speaks in real terms instead of heart-shaped metaphors. Musically, it’s a straight-up rump-shaker of rich grooves that just seems to grow richer with each listen. And, personally, I was singing along within two or three spins of the album.

JC was kind enough to answer a few questions for us…



When and why did you start singing? How did the Uptown Sound come together?

Because my mom was always singing, I started singing around the house as a toddler. I did Chorus in elementary and middle school, and formed my first band in high school. JCBUS came together because Ben, our bassist, and I answered an ad put out by Billy, our guitarist, who was looking to make aggressive dance music.




A press release describes your music as “post-punk soul”. What does that mean to you? How do you think your music fits into this era?

Post-punk soul, to me, is emotive music that doesn’t try to fit into the typical “soul” girdle of warmly lit, grease-lensed love. We discuss love in our music, but usually more graphically than traditional soul, and we also don’t only take the point of view that the common portrayal of love is the ‘be-all, end-all’ ultimate goal. We write about the lighter side of lust and the general messiness of love, its hindsight is less hazy and more 20/20 when we write about why a relationship went wrong, etc. I don’t think our music fits into the post-punk era so much, but it does harken to a post-punk aesthetic that’s been pressed through a soul filter.

I hear some Stax influence in your music, like Otis Redding and the Dramatics. Who else are you influenced by?

For me personally: Patti LaBelle and Tina Turner are huge performance influences. Vocally, I draw inspiration from Otis, Teddy Pendergrass, Anita Baker and Amy Winehouse.

For the band: Bad Brains, Gang of Four, Living Colour, The Stooges, Bowie, Tower of Power, The MGs… the list could go on and on.



How did the idea to soul up Wilco come about?

Well, it started with Billy wondering what Syl Johnson (we were working with Syl at the time for the Numero Group revue) would sound like covering music like Wilco or Bowie, and from there it blossomed into the version we do now.



How did things come together with JCBUS and Bloodshot?

We stormed the Bloodshot office and held them hostage until they agreed to our demands…

What have you and the band been listening to lately?

Right now, I’m listening to a lot of Adele, Tune-Yards, JD MacPherson, Jill Scott, Joe Bataan… A lot of stuff all the time, really, but the artists I listed above have been getting a lot of play lately.


Listen to and download their first single, “Everything Will Be Fine”.

Everything Will Be Fine by JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound


JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound Official Website


Photos by Nate Burrell, courtesy of KDHX

(Guest) Rock ‘n’ Roll Photog: Nate Burrell’s Best of 2010

Regular Rock ‘n’ Roll Photog Jennifer is taking a well-deserved vacation, and NTSIB friend Nate Burrell was kind enough to contribute his favorite photos of 2010 from his own collection. In addition to being a hell of a nice guy, Nate is a great photographer, and we’re very pleased to feature him again.

The Black Keys:
To Summarize: this band kicks ass. They have since 2002, and they are finally getting their due respect on a wider scale in 2010. Their most recent release, Brothers, opened them up to popular outlets, due to its groove-thick gnarly sound and the hit single Tighten Up; but don’t be fooled- their catalogue prior to this year’s album is disgustingly good. Get learned if you haven’t already.

Dan Auerbach stepping to the edge of the stage for the sold out crowd at the Pageant – St. Louis, MO.

Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three:
After successfully touring the US and the UK, as well as having been named Best New Discovery at 2010’s Newport Folk Festival, this St. Louis-based American Roots Music band is definitely a band to look for. Absolutely awesome to see live- energetic, tight on stage, and good musicians to the core… and just as good to put on your turntable or in your headphones. Check “La La Blues” from their album Riverboat Soul if you want to sing and clap along as you get on down! And keep your eyes peeled for their upcoming releases in 2011 – ya heard me??!!

Pokey LaFarge singing and sweatin’ at Off Broadway in South City St. Louis.

JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound:
This Chicago Rhythm and Soul group is another hot ticket to see. Funky as you ever wanted to see on stage, a sound that’s vaguely familiar, but also fresh and its own. You’ll be swayin’ and head bobbin until it’s an all out get down in your own right! Good stuff for sure. Their album is dope! And they are playin’ out in cities right now.

JC Brooks reaching out to the crowd at the Beat ‘N’ Soul Festival – St. Louis, MO.

Patrick Sweany:
A soulful Nashville bluesman, Sweany is a name that you should look up. Having as much comfort on the 6 string as anyone out there today, and a comfortable banter with his audience – you are sure to see a good set when he takes the stage. His new album Southern Drag officially drops in Feb. 2011, but he’s currently out on the road touring and could be headed your way. Look him up.

Banging the stomp box at the Old Rock House – St. Louis, MO.

Those Darlins:
If you saw these three gals and one fella in 2010, you most likely saw them in a smaller to mid-sized venue… and I’ll bet it was packed… and I guarantee it was rowdy! They wail live – no doubt, and will hit you with an assault of songs that’ll soak you with country punk and soul… right after they spray their beer on ya from the stage. After basically going on a world wide tour in 2010, they just released a 7”, and I hear that there’s also a full length to follow.

Jessi Darlin rockin out and lightin’ up at the Off Broadway.

Jessica Lea Mayfield:
After a critically acclaimed debut album, Mayfield toured the world far and wide, played with various big namers of many genres and stole many hearts along the way. Her dark folk sound has a familiarity that we all can relate to and a melody that we will all want to hum or sing along with. With a major label release coming early in 2011, she will certainly be doing some amazing things this next turn of the calendar.

Jessica Lea Mayfirld looks over a theatre filled with her hometown crowd while headlining the Kent State Folk Festival.

Cassie Morgan:
Indie-folk songstress Cassie Morgan had quite a successful 2010. Her band, Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine, spent the majority of the year backing the release of her full length album debut Weathered Hands, Weary Eyes. Morgan (along with band mate Beth Bombara) played with a variety of well known national acts in her home city of St. Louis and embarked on a tour through the great Midwest. While ending up (deservingly) on many–o-critic’s year end best of lists, look for more great things from her in 2011.

Cassie Morgan silencing the crowd at the Gramophone with her beautiful dance of guitar and vocals.

mr. Gnome:
Cleveland, Ohio, rockers (and April’s new favorite!) mr. Gnome will melt your heart and melt your face. Creating walls of growling sonic beauty, this duo is one of the best stage bands you’ll find night in and night out. That good, no question. Screaming guitar and howling female vocals, with a pulsating complex drumming style –you’ll be standing second row before you know it… head bobbing and all!

Nicole Barille captivating the room at the Firebird.

The Sights:
Detroit is known for its soul and rock-n-roll. The Sights give you just that. I wasn’t familiar with this band until seeing them rip up the stage as part of the Beat ‘N’ Soul event at St. Louis’ premier venue Off Broadway, but when they stepped off stage, I was floored. They stomped, they pounded, they hollered and they won the crowd – all in the matter of 35 or 40 minutes. I will definitely make it a point to see them this year, and you may want to consider the same.

Eddy Baranek lets loose for the fans crowding the center stage.

photo copyright Nate Burrell – taken for KDHX Media, St. Louis, MO