The Pimps of Joytime Take the Bowery Ballroom Back In Time
Saturday brought lots of warmth and sunshine, and there was no better way to end this gorgeous day than at the Bowery Ballroom, where Pimps of Joytime and Yellow Dubmarine brought New York modern-influenced, feel-good sounds of the past.
I made sure I was south of my neighborhood before the show; the weather made me want stay above ground as much as possible, and the J train down to Lower East Side crosses the East River, surrendering glimpses of the illuminated city that can make you remember why going to a show in this city is like no other. The musical influences that permeate this place and influence its musicians is so great that it can be difficult to wrap your mind around. As I approached the venue, I wondered if I would be blown away, if this band would live up to my expectations of how powerful their live performance could be, if executed right – We’ll get there soon. I grabbed a quick beer on the way in, hearing Yellow Dubmarine in the distance, and got right upstairs. I generally do my homework before a show; if I don’t know a band on the evening bill, I look them up and give them a listen, but sometimes it’s fun to go in blindly – and this was one of those times.
Little did I know Yellow Dubmarine is an American reggae Beatles tribute band. Integrating dub, reggae, rock, and funk, they serve up a new take on classics like “Yesterday” and “Here Comes the Sun.” The band is comprised of Robbie Cooper (drums, vocals), Jonathan Drye (percussion), Mario D’Ambrosio (sax), Aaron Glaser (bass, vocals), Matt Hotez (trombone), Luke Schuster (keys, vocals), and Jonathan Sloane (guitar). As a former brass player myself, their trombonist really blew me away with his blaring yet melodic solos and impressively high range, easily playing in the upper register. The room filled quickly during Yellow Dubmarine’s inviting and upbeat set, and the crowd was singing along to the familiar, nostalgic songs brought up to the times with reggae beats and style. If I closed my eyes, I swear I could’ve been at the beach on a breezy summer night.
A very well-received opening performance got everyone on the upswing and led to an even friendlier crowd in the lull before the main event: Pimps of Joytime. The room was littered with Soulive t-shirts and women wearing sequin dresses and flared pants (myself included), and it was obvious everybody in this crowd was there for the music – you could feel it in the room. We were looking to feel that compelling soul that about half the crowd wasn’t lucky enough to live through. Sly & the Family Stone and various disco tracks pulsed through the speakers as members of the band filtered on and off the stage during setup, unintentionally teasing the eager and adrenalized crowd. Drummer, John Staten, lit incense that filled the venue, creating a more intimate setting and retro effect, like you were seeing the band at small bar straight back in the ’70s.
The atmosphere had aligned for the show, and a few minutes later, PJT hit the stage under dim, blue lights. Brian J came in hard on his turquoise and tortoise shell guitar along with John Staten on drums, and David Bailis on the bass and sampler creating a more modern electronic funk jam and jolting the crowd full-force into their largely unbounded musical world. Once the two leading female vocalists/percussionists, Mayteana Morales and Cole Williams, joined into the jam, the band’s chemistry was electrified. Brian J’s swagger and attitude set the relaxed yet funky and high energy tone of the evening, playing host to the crowd and inviting them to connect with the band. Every member of Pimps of Joytime was shining in his or her own way. The pure enjoyment, sync, and skill of these musicians together was more than clear; it was a beguiling alignment of talent.
As noticeable as John Staten’s dexterous drumming was the contagious grin he wore for their entire set – pure percussive bliss – as the band tore through favorites like “Janxta Funk,” “Keep that Music Playin’,” and “San Francisco Bound.” The band also played their new single “Booty Text,” which is admittedly a bit of an outlier for the band, and live it even took a different, fun, and funky turn, sort of meeting half way between the recorded version and the more traditional PJT sound.
Long-time member Mayteana Morales (percussion/vocals) helped provide and maintain the NOLA influence, while David Bailis (bass/sampler) balanced that sound back with simultaneously a modern electronic feel and ’70s disco vibe. Cole Williams was connected yet in her own element jamming out on percussion and contributing soulful, booming vocals. In the middle of their set, Williams chimed in and revealed to the crowd that the last time PJT had played at Bowery Ballroom, she was sitting upstairs watching; now she’s been in the band for over a year, and (in my opinion) is pretty indispensable to their energy, sound, and style (sequin shorts & two-colored tights – awesome). The audience and the band were almost one; the crowd’s vitality was maintained by the band, and the band’s by the crowd. The room was full in more ways than one.
“I feel like I am constantly reaching for a sound and energy that is always just out of reach,” Brian J told us in a recent interview. Mr. J has been working for years, honing the sound and musical combination of PJT as its founding member. The band’s sound is constantly absorbing new elements, creating a fresh and ever-changing performance, and the founder does not settle. He explained, “The biggest struggle has been getting the right personnel in place. I am happy to say that this is happening,” and I have to wholeheartedly agree. Recordings of Pimps of Joytime do not do them justice, because some energies cannot be captured, only experienced – so don’t judge until you’ve seen them live! If you have the opportunity to see them perform, it would be impossible not to find a lifted mood, and great music, energy, atmosphere, and performance.
Pimps of Joytime are currently on tour with a handful of dates remaining! See if they’re playing near you.