Last weekend in Funkytown was the annual Lolaspalooza — three days of bands and booze at Lola’s Saloon. In Dallas, they were Spune-ing out large doses of indie music at Spune’s Index Festival. But Saturday I found out that the new lineup of Luke Wade and No Civilians was going to be playing Magnolia Motor Lounge. With the addition of legendary funkytown drummer Blaine Crews and the mighty Alcedrick Todd on trumpet, I knew something special was going on.
When I got there, the kitchen was shut down but the Salsa Limon taco trailer was still serving out front. Food taken care of, I made my way inside and found the stage packed to overflowing. In addition to the new lineup, which also included Nick Choate on bass and David Wade on sax, we had Ryan Tharp and Chris Silverfox Watson on guitar, and Justin Barbee on trumpet and keyboard. They were performing a cover of Paul Simon’s Late in the Evening as I walked in, and the sound was fantastic. I stole a chair by the band’s merch table (the only empty chair in the house) and soaked up the music.
Having played in bands for many years, I know that the words “professional” and “drummer” rarely find their way into a sentence together. Blaine Crews is an exception. The man is precise, creative and knowledgeable. Having Crews behind the kit is a solid move, and no matter what direction the rest of the band goes in any song, that foundation is there. Luke Wade has always sounded good, but this is the best I’ve heard the group.
Where Crews is focused and precise, Choate is the sonic jack of all trades. Shove an instrument in his hands and he can play it; put him in front of a microphone and he can sing anything. And he’ll make you believe he was born to do only that. Saturday his bass lines were tasteful and fulfilling, and his (and Crews’) backing vocals were spot on.
Most of the night was pure Luke Wade though, both in songwriting and vocals. The band did a few covers, like Roxanne by the Police, Maybe I’m Amazed by Paul McCartney, Bennie and the Jets by Elton John, and One More Chance by Jackson 5, but the originals were the essence of this performance. Luke Wade’s songs are emotive and soulful, with just enough funk and punch to keep them from being boring. Much of the music is danceable, some of it more downbeat-love-lost kind of feel, and all of it expertly executed.
The horns, like any good horn section, drove it all home. The high point of the evening — even with the amazing guitar work of Tharp and Watson — was the trumpeting of Alcedrick and Justin. There’s something about a good trumpet player, and these guys are two of the best.
There’s a lot to be said for a good music festival. A smorgasbord of great local music that lets you get a taste of each before moving on. But nothing beats a good night in an intimate venue with a stage full of first-rate players. Luke Wade and No Civilians brings that.