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Review Mon Nov 19 2012

Review: Menahan Street Band @ the Double Door 11/16

Unlike most shows where the doors open and a crowd waits around aimlessly for a band to come on, there had already been a good two and a half hours of dancing before anyone walked onto the stage at the Double Door this past Friday for the Menahan Street Band's performance at Chicago's monthly Soul Summit dance party. In fact, it was unclear whether people were even there specifically to see the band or if they had just come for the dancing in general, live band or not. But at around a quarter to midnight, you had to wonder what exactly the Menahan Street Band was going to contribute. Weren't people going to get tired? Was a live guest even necessary?

As a band with plenty of musical cred to its name (guitarist Thomas Brenneck and other members once recorded with Amy Winehouse, for example), and as the "house band" for one of the premier soul revival labels on the market, the Menahan Street Band has a lot of tricks up its sleeve. They let them all out at the Double Door last Friday, and the Soul Summit dance party was all the better for it.

Apparently no one else but myself had even entertained the idea of being tired of dancing by the time the Brooklyn-based sextet hit the stage. The band's heavy rhythms, flanked by soaring horns and subtle wah-pedal guitar lines, were a living representation of the entire record collection that was on display earlier from the Soul Summit DJs.

The Menahan Street Band focused on material from its most recent album, The Crossing, with songs like "Three Faces" and the title track, which both alternated between a dreamy, atmospheric steadiness and a busier, more technical funkiness. One of the most unique aspects of the Menahan Street Band, though, is the way its members display their musical chops not by trading flashy solos, but by working together in more subtle ways. Fast or slow, the band hit every note with an almost robotic precision, and each instrument seemed to shoulder an equal part of a song's heft. Sometimes a band's strength is its own band-ness, rather than its individual members.

But they were still ready to unleash some of their secret weapons. The special surprise of the night was an appearance from Charles Bradley, "The Screaming Eagle of Soul", whose career the Menahan Street Band helped kickstart last year by recording the 64-year-old's debut album. Bradley was an absolute treasure on stage, joining the Menhan Street Band for two songs during the regular set, and again for the band's entire encore. Wearing gold chains and a turtleneck sweater, he let loose trademark dance moves and microphone tricks. And when all else failed, he screamed his way through the swells in songs from his album No Time For Dreaming, such as"The World (Is Going Up in Flames)". His appearance easily won the loudest applause of the night.

As a setting for live music last Friday, Soul Summit was unique in that instead of just being a dance party, it allowed people to see a real-life product of all the soul records the DJs were spinning earlier in the night. The DJ set acted almost like a soul music history lesson, bringing everyone up to speed about how we got to where we are now. They left it up to the Menahan Street Band to reinforce where exactly that is.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
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Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
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Chicago Singles Club
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Dark Jive
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Oh My Rockness
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Theft Liable to Prosecution
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UR Chicago
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