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Published: 2013/04/04
by Nancy Dunham

Dumpstaphunk, The Hamilton, Washington, D.C – 3/20

Photo by Cindy Dyer, Dyer Design

When Dumpstaphunk took the stage at The Hamilton in Washington, D.C. it was like a silent alarm summoned the fans.

The near-capacity crowd that had grooved in their seats during a powerful set by the New York-based openers, trio London Soul, swarmed to the dance floor in front of the stage even before the friendly nudge from one of Dumpstaphunk’s bassists Tony Hall.

“We came to make you dance,” he said with a grin. “So stand up, push the chair back and shake something!”

The all-ages crowd did just that in its own way. No, this wasn’t the frenetic hipster kind of boogie that’s all-too common in some clubs, but a slower, sultry dance in keeping with the funky, steamy sound anchored by Ivan Neville, son of Aaron Neville, and including his guitarist cousin Ian, son of Art Neville. As fans of New Orleans’ funk know, the Neville Brothers (Art, Aaron, Charles and Cyril) are the first family of New Orleans funk/R&B/soul.

But clearly Dumpstaphunk, which has been around almost a decade, has its own signature sound. Much of that is due to the thundering firepower of Hall, bassist Nick Daniels and drummer Nikki Glaspie. Big props must go out to Ivan and Ian. Sure, they have the Neville chops, but they aren’t afraid to create their own musical art.

Anyone who doubted the five-piece could keep pace with lineage need only feel the sound wrap around the all-ages crowd, powered by the ready-to-break-free percussion, and almost literally yank them in. As soon as the band started tearing into “Paper Chasing Brit Knee [Britney]” there was no doubt the band had come to play hard. With both bass players thundering, Ian’s guitar work smoking, Glaspie exuberantly pounding out the beat, and Ivan’s Hammond B3 steaming, it would be difficult for anyone not to join in the grooves.

The band seemed to become even more exuberant as they moved through the set list into “Everybody Wants Sum” — “No mater where you come from or whether you are rich of poor…everybody wants sum!” cooed Hall before he got down to sprinkling thick-as-molasses vocals over Ivan’s keyboard prowess. Each member of the band, including Glaspie who was on her own island behind the kit, jumped into an enthusiastic rendition of the song.

The songs from the band’s new album Dirty Word are clearly not as well known as the other Dumpstaphunk tunes, but that didn’t stop the crowd from embracing them as the band boogied and the audience members, many holding drinks, got into the grind.

Some critics note that for all the band’s funk, Hall’s crooning can take the band close to the edge of adult contemporary music. Perhaps. But it’s a bet that Hall’s vocals combined with the musicians’ prowess rang more toward classic Motown or Stax sounds than anything else.

And that, quite candidly, is what roped the audience into the sound. For all the band’s pounding percussion and masterful playing, the musicians let the music stay center stage and move the audience into its own private zone. What might veer out of control under less-able players became a simmering, intimate dance.

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