Funk, Feathers & Fire: Joi, Tamar-kali, & blaKbushe
I tell you no lie, back in '94, Sunshine & The Rain was the frickin soundtrack to my life. I thought I had just landed the job of my dreams working at a major music publishing company only to discover on day two that the job totally sucked. And on top of that I had turned down a cool gig at Essence for it too. So I would go to work, happy to have a job, and one in the music biz no less, but miserable to be working for total lunatic haters (save for my homegirl--go Homeschool Records!) Anyway a total digression I know, but that song like the mystical music maven that breathes life into it every time she sings the lyrics encapsulates the disillusioned heartbreak and blissful joy that's a part of everyday life for everyday folk who dream big, work hard, and love deep. Joi is that artist. Shid, she's that woman! Crazy critical acclaim from fans and critics for her first two records that got no real support from her label and fickle music industry; A freaky deaky awe inspiring romance and subsequent marriage to Big Gipp that dissolved like sand into divorce, lost love and baby-daddydom. So needless to say I could not wait to see Joi Gillium do her crazy sexy cool thing at Saturday night's Queen's Daughters event.
Unfortunately the Ballroom was half packed, but that didn’t stop the three headliners from giving us stadium-packed-to-capacity worthy performances. The Labelle tribute, which I thought was going to feature all three singers jamming together, opened with Shelley Nicole’s blacKbushe giving the audience, as producer Kim Knox described it-- a baptism of fire. I especially loved her song that she wrote in response to the cutting down of the noose-strewn tree in Jena, LA. It was my first time seeing her and she definitely lived up to all the hype I had been hearing about her over the years.
Next up was Tamar-kali who was giving us Burlesque Ringmistress love. She twirled a cane, played guitar, bellydanced, did this amazing interpretation of Labelle’s funky Space Children that featured an accordionist, all while maintaining the illest décolletage. Now that's a real woman for ya! Here she is before the show talking about her personal style, Labelle, and bellydancing:
(and if you want to know the answer to the last question of this interview stay tuned for the relaunch of theHotness.com)
And last but certainly not least, Joi strutted out on stage to what has now become her literal cat-call. With every meow moaned by her two backup singers, the excitement in the room intensified. I think the last time Joi performed in NYC was in 2002 so this was a long-awaited homecoming of sorts. And she wasted no time giving her peeps a taste of what they had been yearning for all night, if not a half a decade. She jump-started her seductive prowl tease with Tennessee Slim-- a fun, yet smoldering ditty that showcases the Star Kitty's country cat persona-- a brown liquor drinking, hammocked collards cookin, no mess taking single mama. From there she served up Ameoeba Cleansing Syndrome classics like "You Turn Me On" and "If I'm in Luck I Might Just Get Picked Up," which were both initially rooted in the deep murky back waters of Labelle, Betty Davis and Bootsy Collins. Clearly this was more than a tribute for Joi as her set list and indeed her professional discography prove. She’s got Patti's in your face machisma and flamboyance and for kicks she's got Funkadelic all up under her skin just to show off her knowledge of the music and the movement. When she sang You Turn Me On, which she used to sing with her recently deceased sista-friend and mentor Whyld Peach, it was apparent this "wings and feathers" jawn was more than a gig for Joi. She respects and misses her musical roots. Nina Simone is as much family for her as Whyld Peach. There is a palpable connection to the ancestors when she performs and she acknowledges the angels around her by donning her own wings. I couldn't help but get totally misty eyed. Fo sho' Ms. Gillium gives multiple meanings to the notion of getting moist. Holla and Aché to dat!