Soul Surprised Afro Punk by Ericka Blount Danois

By Ericka Blount Danois and Walter Blount

The revered Afro Punk festival rolled into Brooklyn again this year by the tens of thousands, with eclectic costumes, and a crowd with an irreverent sense of humor and a hearty appetite for black rock, punk and soul. Two of the best received bands out of an impressive line-up that included Alice Smith, Lianne LaHavas, The Internet, Shabazz Palaces, Meshell Ndegeocello and Tamar-Kali, were Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings and Fishbone.

Sharon Jones, the diminutive former prison guard comes out of the tradition of Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Tina Turner, Merry Clayton and Etta James. Her back-up band, the Daptones, who formerly backed Amy Winehouse, is enough to make you shout. Add Sharon Jones to the mix and you have a full-blown church raucous. And the congregation got the spirit on Saturday night to their tunes, “Get Up and Get Out,” which included the Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” and doo-wop riffs on “Making Up and Breaking Up” from Give the People What They Want. The crowd was reluctant to let her go, but she and the band came to a close after two encores with her LP title hit funk anthem, “100 Days, 100 Nights.”

On Sunday the crowd was treated with Fishbone’s front man Angelo Moore on three separate occasions. During the high energy set, complete with crowd surfing in clear weather, Fishbone treated the crowd to favorites, “Drunk Skitzo,” “Party at Ground Zero,” and “Pray to the Junkie Maker.” Then the ever-charismatic Tamar-Kali surprised fans when she joined Moore for a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Freddie’s Dead.”

The biggest surprise, of course, came at the end of the night. The anxious crowd waited for over an hour amidst rumblings that neo-soul king D’Angelo was going to be a “surprise guest.” The crowd shifted their feet in platforms and sneakers, waiting patiently for the R&B anointed one. After nearly two hours, some diehards gave up. But then the Roots band came out with Questlove center stage on the drums. D’Angelo laid low by the keyboards, donning a bandana and a healthy new doughy frame.

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Yes, this was Afro Punk, heavy on the punk, but many in the crowd were disappointed when he didn’t launch into R&B fan favorites from Voodoo or Brown Sugar. He spent the night performing creative covers: Bob Marley’s “Burning and Looting” and Sly and the Family Stone’s “Thankful n’ Thoughtful (with new lyrics he created). He alternated between the keyboards and the clavinet, growling intermittently in a way that only church congregations understand. There was a holy ghost-getting, gospel-like conclusion that all but brought down a good portion of Brooklyn at the outdoor venue and reminded listeners of D’Angelo’s hardcore Pentecostal roots. Before the night ended there were more rumblings from the crowd. Someone said Prince—yeah that Prince—may show. That didn’t happen, but D’Angelo ended his set with a sexy cover of Prince’s “She’s Always in My Hair,” leaving the audience spent from anticipation, filled with rewards and satisfied.

Here are a few of our favorite clips:

Bad Brains w/Corey Glover

Body Count – Cop Killer

D’Angelo – Burnin’ and Lootin’

D’Angelo – She’s Always In My Hair

Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings – You’ll Be Lonely

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