I’ve seen Robert Randolph and the Family Band before at an outdoor amphitheater in South Carolina years ago after being turned on to them by a friend. Fantastic show and the group filled the outdoor space with enough funk to last a few years. So, when I heard they were playing a small, local venue, I couldn’t miss it. The Culture Room, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, is a great standing room only venue that gets you really close to the action. Max capacity on the floor (wild, un-scientific guess) is maybe 350-400, with a side balcony to accommodate an additional 50. With a stage about at chest high for a 6 foot dude and absolutely no barricades up front, means you can get your fingers stomped on by the bouncing talent if you’re not careful (or have them up in the air throwin’ up rock horns).
Greenville, SC bluesman JL Fulks was a proper opener steeping the venue in soulful, original numbers from his impressive repertoire. When the entourage known as Robert Randolph and the Family Band took the stage, the audience was already on the down hill slope of an uproariously good time. Robert and crew made it their mission to take it to the next level and blow the roof off the joint. With covers of Sly and the Family Stone (HAVE to ‘cuz it’s all about the funk, man) and the Staple Sisters thrown in for good measure, alongside crowd favorites, “I Need More Love” and “Shake Your Hips”, the event was less of a concert and more of a tent revival. The groove was infectious and I believe I witnessed a few miraculous healings.
Plenty of jams in the line up allowed the accomplished instrumentalists the opportunity to flex their musical muscle and riff off one another to delight of the crowd. Some might have been disappointed they didn’t grace us with their biggest hit, “Aint Nothin’ Wrong With That”, myself included, however, they delivered on more than one occasion throughout the night with high tempo numbers including, “The March” that transformed shy and demure attendees into slick hipped funkadelics.