I’ve invited my mom to my house concerts several times, “I’m too old for that,” she protests. Well, now I’ve had a performer who is older than her, maybe that will convince her. Of all the unlikely house concerts I’ve done, this may have been the most unlikely. Williams is a legend, the black Godfather, Mr. Rhythm, co-writer of the timeless “Shake a Tailfeather,” and now, KHoRM alumni. I had several people ask me “how did this happen?” I tend to make it a longer story than it needs to be, but it starts with me meeting Goldstars’ keyboardist/Pravda Records owner Kenn Goodman at SXSW in 2011, and ends with me heading to Minneapolis with the band the day after this show to do merch for their gig at Lee’s Liquor Lounge.
In the 2000’s Williams has revitalized a stagnant career by recording with hip, young, bands like the Sadies, the Dirtbombs and Jack White. He’s put out records on White’s label, Yep Roc and Bloodshot. And thanks to the Goldstars, he tours, mostly Europe, but occasional festivals and short tours in the US. They were heading out on one of these short runs and asked if I would be interested in hosting a show to kick it off. Would I? I’m never sure that Madison is going to be as cool as I think it is, but it sold out in just a couple weeks. The Goldstars started the night with a handful of their own songs, ridiculously tight, catchy power pop, that the crowd loved. In fact, I sold more Goldstars CDs than I did Andre CDs after the show. Lead singer/bassist Sal has a magnetic stage presence, slightly goofy owing to a mop of curly hair, but riveting. In fact all the Goldstars are charming- effortless drummer Alex, wildly talented, handsome and heavily tattooed guitarist Jason, and Kenn, who serves as the charismatic emcee and ringleader for the whole thing.
After five songs, including an addictive surf instrumental, they brought Andre on stage. He’s played clubs of all sizes all over the world so I wasn’t sure how he would take to the basement, but he seemed to love it and waved off the instrumental break he usually takes mid-set. And why not, it was a packed house with an enthusiastic crowd. I had tried to leave a dance floor in front of the stage but I found out quickly that people only wanted to stand when they wanted to and they set up the unused chairs. Still, despite the fact that they were mostly seated, they spent more time on their feet than I expected, standing up for one of the catchier numbers and sitting back down for the slow ones. I’ve joking called Andre “a dirty old man” more than once, but with song titles like “Jailbait” and “Let Me Put It In” it’s kind of hard to miss the sexual overtones of his songs.
I was a little worried that the steps would be too much for him but he strode down them in grand fashion to make his entrance after Kenn’s enthusiastic intro. His shiny saddle shoes announcing his arrival before his pinstriped suit was fully in view. A few songs in he shed his hat and coat and hung them over the mike stand which had been empty since he plucked the microphone from it to start the show. At the end of the set he put them back on and made his way upstairs, only to return for the encore in a new outfit. There’s a first time for everything in the basement I guess, and this was the first outfit change I can remember.
What a great night, I wish I had more R&B legends play the basement.