Juneteenth @ Public Assembly

12Oct08

After hearing much about this Brooklyn-based band, and even meeting some of its members, I can finally report that I have succeeding in making it to a Juneteenth concert. They played Thursday night at Public Assembly in Williamsburg, a neighborhood that would not be my first choice in places to see a concert that starts after midnight on a Thursday, but with a there’s-no-time-like-the-present attitude, I took myself off my couch and over to Williamsburg to finally see the band for myself.

Arriving just before midnight, I saw some of the band members carting equipment around, so I figured they would start soon. When the curtain finally opened, I did not recognize one single person onstage. Turns out it was Gutz, the band slated to perform before Juneteenth. At this point I realized it would not be a late night, it would be a really late night. After momentarily entertaining the idea of catching them at another show, I scrapped that idea. I was already there, and I wasn’t about to leave. And Gutz wasn’t bad. They had some catchy songs. The lead singer played the keyboard and shared vocal duties with a female band mate, who had a strong voice that didn’t get lost behind his vocals. I wasn’t able to catch what the songs were about, though he did mention one was about skateboarding. But on to the main attraction…

I was happy to see the members of Juneteenth finally take the stage, and once they started playing I realized the late-night trek was worth it. The band, anchored by brothers Puge and Jamal, played a set of songs that were a combination of rock and funk. They were high energy songs, and you could certainly be moved to dance to the beat, or at least tap some part of your body on something nearby. The harmonica, prominent in a couple of their songs, added a bluesy sound to the mix. I don’t think I have seen someone play the harmonica for pretty much the duration of a song, so that seemed like quite a feat to me.

After regular shows at The Bitter End, the members of Juneteenth found themselves taking on a different kind of space at Public Assembly. It was a nice bar space, small but lofty, with a friendly DJ offering up music between sets. In front of the stage, there was a little room for dancing, which was mainly enjoyed by one lone woman while Juneteenth performed. The sound from the stage was slightly overpowering for the space (which is rare for me to notice, as I’m certain I’ve gone deaf at this point), but I guess that’s because the music has to mask the sounds coming from the performers in the Back Room section of Public Assembly. Yes, it was quite a busy night there. I’m glad I got out to enjoy it.

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