SLIDESHOW AND REVIEW: Orgone at the Fox Theatre

P.J. Nutting | Boulder Weekly

Photos by Dane Cronin

Five minutes before Orgone took the stage, about 80 people were milling around the Fox Theatre in lines against the railings, circled into conversation and drinks in hand. My first impression was that the crowd was sparse and distracted. I worried that the Los Angeles funk band didn’t have the crowd support to put on a convincing high-energy show. No matter who you are, larger crowds inspire better times. At around 10:45 p.m., five members of the band walked to their respective stage positions onstage and approximately three people noticed. If you can’t cheer for the headlining act as they make their appearance, what are you willing to cheer for?

The realization came to me later that this was a Tuesday night during summer break. The rowdy student crowd was nowhere in sight tonight, and the post-college turnout seemed to revel in having the place to themselves. No kids in sight, no underage corral or thick black X’s needed, no belligerence in dancing or requests to buy a drink.

I’ll be honest, it was awesome to have such a relaxed and amicable attitude and have plenty of time to warm up. The dancing was easy and carefree, with a somewhat sober air even as fans put on the best shimmy a full pint glass would allow.

Orgone effortlessly meshed with the vibe of the Fox. Vocalist Niki J. Crawford, percussionist Stewart Killen, and guitarist Sergio Rios were easily the stars of the show and each brought an individual stage presence. Rios was by far the most interesting to watch, with flashy jumps and dramatic pauses when he sank to the floor (often to discreetly grab his beer), and of course there was the constant bobbing of his floppy afro to compliment his cheesy smile.

Killen was killin’ it as well. There’s just something special about a band with an expert percussionist to blast away at the congas and cowbells, especially when that percussionist can switch between the two in a blink of an eye in a flurry of hands and drumsticks. If anything should be said about Orgone, it’s that they run a tight rhythmic ship and all their variations of funk were delivered in a way that smacked you across the face — in a good way.

Crawford had some serious mojo on stage as well, but in a slinky and seductive way that allowed her to coolly exit the stage when the band took off into a faster instrumental jam. Her subtle shoulder shakes were a great contrast to the two maniacs on either side of her playing guitar and congas, but she actually sent chills down my arms during a wailing vocal solo. I couldn’t help but wonder why she didn’t stick around for the instrumentals, which makes up a large part of Orgone’s catalog. What, is it too much to pick up a shaker or a tambourine? Do you realize how hard your band is jamming right now?

The band could definitely hold down a groove, whether it was New Orleans blues, Afropop, Southern rock, or a multitude of ’70s sounds that all tied together within the rhythm section’s pounding funk style. I’m equally impressed they gave Crawford some superb backing vocals that were substantial all on their own. “This is a real funk band,” I thought as I noticed the keyboardist compromised for his piano bench with a wooden chair and a drum case, supporting the four-part vocal lines through covers of Booker T. and the M.G.’s and Isaac Hayes.

I knew I was having a good night when the flashy keyboard solos brought back memories of seeing The New Deal at the Fox last year. Orgone’s show had a lot of overlap with jam-oriented bands you often see in Boulder, but the crucial difference was that the extended improv sessions (including a banging solo on a talking drum) leaned more towards a wholesome groove rather than an appeasement of the audience’s illicit substance use. So chill was the environment that no one took notice when a pretty young thing hopped onto the stage to get down with the band; sadly, that included the band.

I left the Fox as crowds of invigorated fans dispersed into clouds of chit-chatting about how awesome the music made them feel tonight. It’s only half past midnight, so I decide to cap off the night at a bar on the Hill. The contrast is striking. The music from the DJ is obnoxious, completely non-organic, and very, very loud. People aren’t dancing as much as they’re throwing themselves into each other. It takes 20 minutes to get a drink because dolled-up girls are constantly fighting for the bartenders attention.
I sigh, and put my elbows on the bar.