All Mighty Senators, 123 Pleasant Street, Morgantown, WV- 10/3
Baltimore City's funk-laden rock and soul quintet rolled into Morgantown on Friday equipped with nothing more than a wink and a smile and a burning desire to get the house bumping. The All Mighty Senators, fresh off of a summer chock full of festival gigs and coast to coast touring with Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders, were back doing what they do best: bringing the party to the people. 123 Pleasant Street, a brick row building built along a sloping hill in downtown Morgantown, is a consummate live music bar in top-notch college town. A common stopping point for the Senators, 123 was bristling with activity when I arrived. The upper and lower bars were busy and the main room was filled to the brim with hippies and townies, punk rockers and hip hoppers, a testament to the widespread appeal of a the Senators.
The show got underway shortly after midnight following a strong opening set from northern Virginia jam-rockers The Ordinary Way. Landis Expandis, aka Kool-Aid, strutted to his drum kit center stage sporting a sparkle rich collared shirt and tie, triangle sunglasses and a blond mullet wig and greeted the crowd before pounding out the thunderous opening beat to "Kung Fu Masters". "Culture Shock" followed, and by now the bar was brimming with boogie, while Warren Boes' guitar playing, a frenetic attack of slippery, skanky, rhythms and pump your fist riffing, blazed the trail for the Senators to follow throughout a two hour sweaty set. Their high-tempo cover of "Rocky Top" was well received and offered the horn section a chance to stretch their legs for the first time as the band began to jam a bit. These segments were compact and never unwieldy, each time stretching the tune just enough to let it breathe deeply.
"Old School" the first track on their 1997 release Flow was a favorite among the AMS faithful, Jack Derring's pulsating bass line moving feet and asses back and forth across the dance floor at will. Nary halfway through the set, the quintet delivered a tommy-gun volley of Senators' staples including "Power Generator", "Booty Fresh", "No Clothes On", "Winner", and "Flex & Release". The last number, led by Derring's low end groove, was the AMS tribute to "the gluteus maximus, the muscle in back of us", a common theme found throughout the Senators' catalog. Kool Aid delighted the crowd with his soulful stylings all the while pounding out the time on his pimped-out pink frilly bass drum. The band pulled out a big ole tease of the Guns n' Roses classic "Paradise City" to whip the crowd into a rock and roll fervor before roaring through "Giant Steps".
Following "Trasmitta" the hands on the clock had begun to creep close to last call, and the Senators responded with a volley of covers and originals to close out their set with raucous energy. Boes stepped to the mic for the first time for their cover of Judas Priest's campy hair metal classic "Livin' After Midnight". Kool Aid paid tribute to Joe Strummer as the band tore through "Should I Stay or Should I Go" as a few of the more over-zealous crowd members began to mosh. "I used to do that back in the day," Kool Aid remarked at songs' close, "but then decided that I liked having girls on the dance floor."
As closing time crept closer, the band unleashed one final push to the finish with their call and response classic "Soul". The crowd answered the affirmative, responding to every call of "you got the soul?" with "you know that's right" hands pumping in the air and entire dance floor dancing in unison. The Senators provide what is, essentially, the perfect brand of dance music, taking us back to a time before the term was so diluted as to describe any of a litany of terrible pop-40 radio acts. They ooze energy and play each show with breakneck intensity. The band tried to leave the stage, but the cramped confines of Morgantown's dark and cramped live music mecca made it hard, and they brought out one last number for the road, a crunching take on Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" demonstrating that the All Mighty Senators direct fresh energy at everything they set their sights on, whether be a college bar on a Friday night, a Michael Jackson tune, or the booty.