A pair of DJs accompanied the pre-show preparations with a tactful, all-vinyl set of classic funk and soul that demonstrated a love of the music beyond the scope of the popular hits of the genre and set the mood for a stanky, New Orleans-style set from the eight-member strong Soul Rebels.
Band members casually took the stage, drinks in hand, and without more than a fade of the pre-show tunes, Paul Robertson picked up his trombone and pounded out an introductory riff. The band soon joined in, the house lights dropped, and the energy immediately started pouring off the stage.
The slightly stunned and somewhat shy crowd slowly found dancing space in the pit, but by the end of the first song, the date nighters began to swing each other around the front of the dance floor.
The set progressed like a medley of songs with teasing transitional interpolations of Curtis Mayfield and other familiar riffs, blending their original compositions and covers into a danceable mix that didn't leave many in their seats long. Taking only a few short breaks to introduce the band and mention their internet presence, the Soul Rebels made sure that there was always music to dance to and even provided coaching to get the whole venue stepping side to side in unison for their lead single "504." With spots of rapped verse from a number of different members, some call and return and hype tactics, the night had the vigor of a hip-hop show at times, further vitalizing the crowd.
Each member brought their own personality to the stage and the sound. While officially lead by Lumar LeBlanc and Derrick "Oops" Moss who teamed up to take on the drums and percussion in a marching band style set-up, Erion Williams served as the front man on stage, emceeing the night and taking many melodic roles as the lone saxophone on stage. In addition to Robertson, who proved both agile and genuinely happy on his trombone, Corey Peyton seemed to fill in the roll of accents and harmony in the second trombone spot, often joining in with quick phrases that highlighted the solos and verses from other members on stage.
The trumpet team of Marcus "Red" Hubbard and Julian Gosin were fundamental energizers on stage, often taking the lead on the vocal parts and the most animated dancers, but with any great brass band, the sousaphone bass lines lead the changes more passively from the backline, in this case by Edward Lee who played continually, seemingly without pause for breaths.
In addition to their own original tunes, the Soul Rebels brought a selection of innovative covers that demonstrate their brilliance in orchestration, perhaps shown best by their interpretation of the Eurythmics' classic "Sweet Dreams Are Made of This." Using the full potential of the eight piece set-up, the members each take different parts that often work in syncopation to create the tune, rather than simply assigning standard roles to new instruments. These syncopated grooves display their ingenuity, but often the unison parts provided the most excitement as the entire front line accompanies the parts with simple but lively choreographed steps. Beyond the rehearsed steps, everyone in the band danced constantly whenever they lowered their instruments in a flood of constant entertainment, including big steps by Robertson, a notably large man, that left other band members in laughter during the final jam.
Ultimately, the crowd was a bit smaller than one might have hoped, and the show fought for attention and parking spots from the soccer match up the street. But from the stage to the door, not a single person could refrain from dancing by the end. It was a short set that ended the night a bit earlier than many could have expected, but for 90 minutes, the Soul Rebels supplied a stream of non-stop boogie that gave everyone an unavoidable strut in their step as they embarked on the rest of their evening.
Black + Blues
Touch the Sky
Turn It Up
Pass the Peas
Sweet Dreams Are Made of This
All photos by Wil Wander.