Words by James Farrell | Photos by Mark Dershowitz
The Pimps of Joytime love to dance. They took the stage at the Music Hall of Williamsburg this past Friday night to a looping blues harmonica track—the intro to their funky opening song, “Dank Janky.” Shrouded in artificial fog and the red glow of stage lights, lead singer and guitarist Brian J and backing vocalists Mayteana Morales and Kim Dawson kicked into a laidback, choreographed dance routine. Smiles never left their faces.
All night, Brian J was as cool as they come, sporting a scruffy face beneath a top hat and swaying smoothly on stage with a sly grin. “We want you to feel good,” he said in between songs with the smooth lilt of a 70s radio DJ. “If you feel good then we’re doing something right.” The Pimps of Joytime know how good they are, so they don’t waste energy on stress, which makes their stage presence one of their most endearing qualities. They make it look easy—if you aren’t moving and smiling, you aren’t doing it right.
The band is a hybrid between club electronica and New Orleans-tinged blues, oscillating between funky, urban sounds and loops, patches and drops. They are driven by hard-hitting, complex rhythms—and not just courtesy of explosive drummer John Staten. Every member of the band is a percussionist. “My Gold,” one of the night’s best, had a funkier feel, slightly reminiscent of Soulive, and it was aided by Brian J’s tight, syncopated guitar strumming patterns and Mayteana Morales’ work behind the percussion kit. During “Janxta,” which featured guest singer Chauncey Yearwood and trumpet player Maurice Brown of the Tedeschi Trucks Band, the band let Staten take over for an impressive drum solo. But soon Brian J joined him on a lone snare drum, and Chauncey and Morales traded rhythmic patterns on cowbells.
Vocally, Morales and Kim Dawson didn’t show off much, but when they did, they stole the spotlight. The end of the set evolved into a party, where the Pimps of Joytime smiled and laughed and grew more playful. Morales called over Brian J and challenged him to a call and response, where she sang a line, and he echoed it on guitar. The challenge ended when her voice hit notes his guitar couldn’t reach. Then they put the spotlight on Dawson, who took a vocal solo, which began with soft scatting and ended with an explosive scream and a cheering crowd.
The show was a homecoming for the Brooklyn-based band—maybe that’s why they were all smiling. Brian J dedicated “Street Sound” to all street musicians, reminiscing about his days playing on Bedford Avenue. Now that they’ve moved to a bigger stage, they’re going to enjoy every second of it.
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