French Quarter Festival

April 08, 2005

The big three, riding together into the funk sunset of New Orleans. Ok, so maybe it wasn't that dramatic, but in 1999, local funk bands All That, Iris May Tango, and Juice were set to take their place as successors to the Meters' throne. Then they fell apart. There was a mutiny in All That, Iris May Tango died a slow death due to lack of leadership and touring, and Juice just disappeared. One day they were everywhere, playing the 2001 and 2002 Jazzfests and attracting big crowds. The next they were gone, quietly returning to gigging last year at Banks Street Bar. I saw them in a listing and said, "Oh, Juice is back." So, of the three they survived, but they still weren't as strong as I rememberd them when they played The French Quarter Festival Friday afternoon. The band was bassist/vocalist Dave Jordan, drummer Aron Lambert, vocalist/guitarist Sam Hotchkiss, and keyboardist Joe Krown.

Sure, they played enjoyable funk music that was danceable, but they didn't have the intelligent spark that made it seem like they could get out of New Orleans in the first place. The band was talented and very good at incorporating blues elements into their music, but they probably didn't change the way an audience looked at funk. Juice was just another variation on the funk formula.

Juice played catchy instrumentals and songs with catch-phrase, sing-along vocals. Krown was the best part about the band. He laid down simple, nasty grooves full of hooks. Just the hot essentials.

The concert hit a peak when Big Chief Alfred Doucette of the Flaming Arrows Tribe took over the vocal duties. Doucette sauntered--did I say that right?--and gave so much decadent, good-time soul to the music with the help of his tambourine.

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