View from the boat - Photos by Marisa Aveling
Most of us had already realized that there was air conditioning (and a buffet! Pulled pork!) on the lowest level of the Queen Of Hearts by the time Dam-Funk and his two-man band, Master Blazter, were warming up with aggressive synth riffs. Which actually says quite a lot, seeing as though regardless of the heavy heat and low roof, the crowd in front of the “stage” (aka front part of the top deck) was shoulder-to-shoulder from side to side and virtually butt-to-crotch, front to back.
We were stationed opposite the Domino Sugar Factory, floating in the middle of the allegedly body-filled East River and very occasionally getting cooled by the breeze coming off of the water. Dam-Funk, keyboard bahd mahn Computer Jay and drummer J-1 were all in stage blacks, banging out dirty funk rhythms. The L.A. producer/DJ has finessed his show since he first started showcasing his synth-laden, ’80s drum-riddled tracks (his first solo live appearance in New York was November 2009, if our memory serves us correctly), and his music sounded even more smoldering when channeled between the three gents. “It’s My Life,” first composed by an adolescent Dam back in the early ’90s, was given an aggressive thrashing, but aside from that, the trio went for something most accurately described as a simmer. Dam-Funk still managed to shred on his red keytar and walked into the wad of people, rolling his head back and deliriously ripping through a solo. Of course, the camera phones that were whipped out when he did this contain evidence that it actually happened.
The Statue Of Liberty was close when Dam wound down. We bobbed here for a little while, before coasting by the giant Colgate clock of New Jersey while Steve Arrington was tuning up. The man is kind of a legend, renowned for his work in the ’80s with boogie-funk band Slave, as well as his solo stuff. This show was significant for more than that it was taking place on a boat (we’re on a motherflippin’ boat), as it was the first time in 25 years that Arrington played with his original band in New York City.
His Chicago-based backing group was dedicated to the cause and had driven into town especially for the occasion. Two were wearing camo outers, one lady member wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Got music?,” and his backup singer fanned herself to battle the rising temperatures. A minister of the church, Arrington stood center front in all black, slinging a large diamond cross on a long chain across his front. Nearly three decades out of the game hasn’t meant that he’s out of practice, and he arched and bent his body into the notes of “Just A Touch Of Love,” a track that tickled the crowd that contained people who probably weren’t even born when it was first released in 1979. It’s really saying something that Arrington can reenter secular music and continue on with fans who are still rabid about his music, albeit generations younger. He thanked God (of course) and us, played the old stuff, some new stuff, hugged his man Dam-Funk and finished with something popularized by Snoop Dogg
though gloriously, funkingly, wholeheartedly Arrington’s own