The 8x10 Club – Baltimore, MD
Words, Photos, & Interview By Andy DeVilbiss (www.facebook.com/HumpDayFunk)
If you read any of my All Good Festival recaps, you know I thought Chicago's Lubriphonic was one of the best acts of the weekend, so I was incredibly happy to get the opportunity to see them in a headlining slot a few weeks later at the 8x10 Club in Baltimore. The gig was a perfect example of the sometimes confusing geographical track a burgeoning touring band faces. Lube had played in Greensburg, PA, the night before. Then they drove over 200 miles east to Baltimore for the 8x10 gig. The next morning, they'd head back west to Johnstown, PA, which is a stones-throw from Greensburg. When people talk about touring as a grind, they're probably talking about weekends like this. That's the kind of thing you've got to do when you're trying to build a fanbase, though. And although the crowd for Lubriphonic at the 8x10 wasn't huge, those in attendance threw down just as hard as the band, and I'd wager every single sweaty body left the venue after their 2 1/2 hour set as a Lube fan.
Despite being a local band and possibly responsible for the majority of ticket sales for this gig due to the large amount of their supporters in the audience, I'll confess that openers J Pope and Funk Friday were not on my radar. At all. They are now. Led by singer/MC J Pope, Funk Friday presented an interesting mix of straight funk, complex fusion-y riffs, slow-jam R&B, and an ample dose of hip-hop. J Pope's got some powerful pipes, and she can spit some rapid-fire rhymes. I was also drawn to guitarist Jake Kohlhas, who had a fluid, spiraling style to his playing. I was impressed enough that I'd check these guys out again, and I was happy to add another act to the list of local funk bands, which, much to my delight, seems to really be growing lately. And, what can I say, something about that "Funk Friday" name strikes a chord with me, y'know?
Before they founded Lubriphonic, guitarist/singer Giles Corey and drummer Rick King played as sidemen for some real Chicago blues legends. When I say legends, I mean people like Koko Taylor, Bo Diddley, and the great Otis Rush. LEGENDS. This experience, combined with Corey and King striving to round out Lube's roster with musicians who were equally steeped in the Windy City's rich blues tradition and funky as hell, makes for an ultra-tight band that knows not just how to play, but how to PERFORM.
Lube opened with the uptempo scorcher "Love Bomb" from Soul Solution, and I could easily pick out the folks in the crowd who'd never heard them before by watching the widening eyes and "Whoa! This is ALRIGHT" smiles that began to appear. "Under The Line" from their latest album, The Gig Is On, provided Corey with the opportunity to unleash his distinct, speedy vocal styling. You remember the fast-talking dude from those Micro Machine toy car commercials when you were a kid? Slather him up with grease, roll him in bluesy grit, add a few yells and screeches from the Godfather's playbook, and you've got a good approximation of Corey's impressive vocal acrobatics (In fact, "How in the blue hell do you sing like that?" was the one question on my list I wish I'd asked Corey when I interviewed him earlier in the day, but the man had already been incredibly generous with his time). The band provided some James Brown-teasing riffs behind trombonist Norman Palm's solo. While Corey is ostensibly the onstage leader and a phenomenal soloist, throughout the night he allowed ample opportunity for Palm and saxophonist Charles Prophet to strut their solo stuff.
Lubriphonic is getting ready to head back into the studio to record their next album, but they're already playing some of their new material live, honing and solidifying songs like "Disco Stu," a shimmering, sizzling stomp that I truly hope was titled as an homage to Springfield's afro-ed, still-trapped-in-the-70s Lothario. They chose to slow it down with the romantic and swinging "No Blues" before sliding into a great cover of "Soul Man", featuring both a NOLA-tinged "Ya-ya" intro and double-time soul revue outro that took things a notch beyond a standard cover. The complex riffs of "Chalk Train" followed before rolling into another relatively new number, "Whiskey and Chicken Wings." This is a personal favorite of mine. It's a great funky blues strut, and I just love the opening lyrics of the chorus: "Whiskey and chicken wings / The beat goes on and the register rings." The slow burner "Pay The Man" followed and this five-song run provided a great snapshot of the band's ability to shift through several musical gears and tempos, creating a nice rapport with the crowd and building some great energy.
The first of two excellent, bone-rattling drum solos from King served notice that things were about to pick up as Lubriphonic dove into the gritty, plaintive "We All Fall Down", which featured some wonderful dueling/intertwined solos from the horns. A faithful cover of Curtis Mayfield's "(Don't Worry) If There's A Hell Below, We're All Gonna Go" got the remainder of dead asses in the crowd moving, just in time for a truly epic guitar solo by Corey during "You Better Say Something". At one point, Corey was playing his solo, well, solo as the band dropped out behind him, and he channeled his inner Eddie Van Halen to provide extra shred. Definitely his best individual moment in a night of overall stellar work. The rough and tumble "Dope Man" followed, and, since it featured Ivan Neville on the album version, it provided Corey with an opportunity to advertise Dumpstaphunk's gig at the 8x10 in a few days later.
The fiery instrumental "Inner Simon" provided an opportunity for bassist Pennal "PJ" Johnson to be highlighted. He delivered in a big way with a crowd-pumping, thumb-thumping solo that would've made Larry Graham, the ultimate slapdaddy, proud. After an ode to bootlegging, "Haulin' Shine" and the frenetic fury of "Rhino", Lube invited J Pope to the stage to sing and scat on "Whatever You Do Don't Stop", and she and Corey seemed to have a ball trading licks. The band then paid additional tribute to their Chicago blues roots with a raucous version of Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor" before launching into an absolutely ripping take on James Brown's "There Was A Time". If the somewhat reserved "Rain Keep Falling" as a set-closer left anyone wanting, Lube's encore of "Soul Solution" showed they had one more giant funk bomb in their arsenal because everything about it was explosive. It was a truly hot and sweaty throwdown, and the last note was as tight as the first.
I filed out amongst the sated and stunned crowd and overheard more than few rave reviews of the "Holy shit! What did I just see?" variety, with several people already talking about how they'd definitely be back in the house for Lube's next gig. It may have been a smallish crowd, but, it's safe to say Lubriphonic has cracked the Baltimore nut. I imagine their next gig here will be somewhat like the progression I witnessed with the New Mastersounds, where the crowd seemed to double each successive time they came back to town.
Meanwhile, Lubriphonic prepared to get back to their touring grind, ready to hit the next stop and win over a few more sets of ears. Trust me. They've got the chops and stage presence to do just that. And they've got the drive and determination to maintain their current relentless touring pace. That means you should have plenty of opportunities to see them over the rest of the year, and, if any of their stops are nearby, you'd best go out and see these cats. They will melt your face clean off. If you don't trust my humble words, then I urge you to head to their website where you can get a free sampler of live soundboard material and get a heaping helping of Lube's "Chicago funk and soul stew." Damn iff'n it ain't funky and delicious.
Andy’s Interview with Giles Corey of Lubriphonic: