Live Review: Royal Family Ball 2011

Featuring Soulive, Lettuce, Roy Hargrove, Pharoahe Monch, Rahzel, Raul Midón, and The Shady Horns

WHEN: October 15
WHERE: Terminal 5 – New York City
HIGHLIGHT: The entire Royal Family raging the crowd’s funking faces.

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Terminal 5: a gutted factory with looming shadows amongst metal ducts and steel walls. Wandering in, a winding maze through white corridors and large industrial doors eventually dumped me into an enormous room. It was packed. The Royal Family label consistently brings New York City’s musical heritage to the forefront of cool, playing what has always made people move and reinterpreting it as the industry and the world around them evolves.

One-man-band and songwriter Raul Midón seemed small standing alone center stage. A few solitary spotlights touched his face. Midón started out slow, building his rapture cautiously. He used a combination of unique strumming techniques and stirring vocals to produce his sound – a percussive slap-guitar style enriched by an endless well of vocal depth.

Lettuce was the culmination of the evening, playing after Soulive. Fans who had been wearing the cardboard crowns strewn about the venue were finding them beneath their feet, drenched in beer. Terminal 5 was a maze of ragers, partying just as the Royal Family had intended. Rahzel and Pharoahe Monch both made appearances onstage with the funk act, creating a very special atmosphere: this was a celebration.

Lettuce is an all-star cast of funkateers, and each member brings a distinctive, adaptable element to the band – funk music gone classic, breakbeat, jam, and old-school – with Adam Deitch on the drums, Kraz on the guitar, Neal Evans on the organ, and Sam Kininger on sax. It was as if Terminal 5 pumped up the sound on the monitors for their set. The warehouse was vibrating. People were packed in, like an ocean of seaweed caught in a roaring current. The lights turned neon, flashing schizophrenically over the crowd in bright greens, reds, and purples. It was a catalyst of funk in every sense.

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