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Summerstage Showcase At Highline Ballroom, Thursday, January 10th, 2013 Reviewed

"The diversity and strength of the music SummerStage presents is arguable as well rounded and representative of New York City (and the World) as you will find anywhere, and I'm extremely proud of that." So said Summerstage's Artistic Director Erika Elliott when I interviewed her last year, and though she wasn't at Highline Ballroom for a Summerstage (and Santa Monica Piers) showcase of the upcoming concert of free music, dance and theater shows at New York City Parks, the spirit that introduced the world to Kanye West at SOBS lo those many years ago sure was. In a ridiculously smart and cutting edge evening of music, a handful of top acts wowed an audience, mostly their to see a rapturously received funk old time Shuggie Otis. If they'd arrived on time they would have also caught Kosher Rock, Interdisciplinary Indie rock, over the edge UK soul and a founder of Hip Hop, DJ Kool Herc who spinned very apt sounds and lots and lots of James Brown which is always apt any way.

Joshua Nelson with a great organ player and three back up singers was a mix of Little Richard and Mahalia Jackson,  a wailing Gospel singer with the spirit of the God of Moses all over him, whether testify on "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands" or bringing Louis Armstrong to the Temple with a breath taking wall shaking meeting of St. Louis and Jerusalem to end the set. 

People Get Ready is indie rock mixing members of A Sunny Day In Glasgow and Yeasayer with a David Byrne dancer and all wrapped up in a Brooklyn ambiance that seems to be struggling against the confines of pop group concert conventions. At the Kitchen, an arts center, People Get Ready have been performing a dance and music concert bringing dance to indie. In the film I've watched, it was highly stylized movements. Some of this style survived on the smaller stage (if and when People Get Ready play Summerstage this season, it should be pretty spectacular), mostly in Steven's jerky robotic movements, like Data of Star Trek. The sound itself is indie as written and a little more (at the sound check, Steve would push for more organ, he made it the lead instrument), and all the band members switched instruments from time to time. Still the evening belonged to Jen Goma who has  a lovely voice and wowed on "Middle Name" (I think -on record its a duet). When the band harmonizes it is a thing of beauty and when the band spend the last couple of minutes banging every thing in sight including a triangle, I am personally in awe. Incidentally, my partner in crime for the evening, my niece Louba, hated em, but what does she know?

She loved Ofie. Most people turn down the house lights when they go on stage, Ofie turned the stage lights down, so bathed in red light with a PC and an organ and highly pasteurized vocals, the very cool English DJ could remain mysterious. Ofie only played three songs, including his hit "London"  but they were all beautiful and moving tracks and when he got up to move on the last song, the audience gasped, I asked my partner in crime to rush to the stage and take a picture. But too late, Ofie and his dreadlocks had left the stage.

Shuggie Otis, who after the success of his  third album,1974's  Inspiration Information,  turned down the chance to work with Quincy Jones and the Rolling Stones among others and got dropped by Epic Records, is rereleasing the album as a double. A great guitarist, I mean really something, especially when he got his guitar up and running. He reminds me of Prince without the dancing, he has the same sort of graceful, fluid notes that seem to errupt and subside. And Otis has a  band that sounds a lot like ly and the Family Stone, Louba told me up close the man exuded pure energy and the set mixed the old with the new to amazing effect. It was 70s funk brought to life and the newer songs were quite as good. Welcome back, Shuggie.

And now it is back to winter for us drones while Summerstage 2013 waits for us!

Grade: B+

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