America, it seems, has become obsessed with finding the next great singing sensation. Every since American Idol debuted here in the states in 2002, the proliferation of reality-based singing competitions has been incessant; The Voice, X Factor, America’s Got Talent, and brand new show Duets have all set out on the quest to find the next Whitney Houston (and, to be fair, they’ve done a pretty good job, if judging by Jennifer Hudson’s Grammy and Jordin Sparks’ Billboard Music Awards tributes to the late diva).
But what these shows don’t account for is the sheer power of stage presence, and the havoc that a dynamic performer can wreak on an audience. Early funk and soul pioneers such as Little Richard and James Brown are remembered just as much for their voices — recognized as some of the best ever, sure — as for their infectious, energetic performances, a type of full-bodied wiggle that emanated from the microphone through the soul of every member of the audience whenever they took the stage.
In the intervening years, funk and soul have been on similar roller-coaster rides of relevance, dipping in and out of the public consciousness, but though the musical form was never lost, for a while it seemed the art of the dynamic lead singer may have receded away.
Fortunately, that is no longer the case. Artists such as Sharon Jones and Nigel Hall have resurrected that firebrand-style of constant-motion-engagement, and after witnessing Vintage Trouble’s coming out party at their various SXSW shows this year, you can add VT front man Ty Taylor to that list as well.
Fronting his tight, on-point three piece ensemble, Taylor and his dapperly-dressed pals have a habit of drenching fine suits in a well-earned sweat shower that has nothing to do with the temperature outside and everything to do with the heat the band creates. Whether an evening show opening for The-Dream, indie darlings Poliça, and Lionel Richie or a noon start at a 6th Street bar, VT brought a level of hard-working professionalism mixed with unabashed fun(k) that made audiences forget what decade they were in and just surrender to the band’s flow. And while most genres have produced their own brand of the enigmatic frontman/woman, it is rarely as important and engaging as it comes across in funk/soul.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings delight audiences with coordinated dance moves and Jones’ habit of working every centimeter of the stages she graces. Nigel Hall works and caresses a microphone stand with a power that Steven Tyler wishes he could possess, and which James Brown turned into an art form. Taylor and Vintage Trouble, despite having only formed in California two years ago, are proving very quickly that they are more than worthy of joining their ranks.
Catch their debut album, The Bomb Shelter Sessions, out now, for a taste of that funk/soul/dirty blues that they’re bringing to stages around the country, and don’t you dare miss their stage show. It’s infectious.