In this post-post-everything musical universe we find ourselves in, it’s always comforting to hear classic sounds from talented bands without the help of a Macbook. Whiskey Chief and the Chantrelles linked to the past, where they respectively revived funkadelic ’70s grooves and mid-’60s rhythm and blues.
Vancouver’s Whiskey Chief kicked off the night with “Dyno Egg,” a dirty little funk fest with greasy horns and Stevie Wonder keys, before floating away in a spacey Floydian breakdown. They easily drew the biggest crowd of the night, not in terms of numbers, but the sheer size of the dudes dancing up a storm in front of the stage. This high energy group had amazing stage presence for a band with no front man, or vocals. Members broke the fourth wall, jumping into the crowd to share a dance, while bassist Dave Wise rode through the crowd on the burly shoulders of Dreadnoughts bassist Andrew Hay.
Victoria’s eight-piece Motown machine the Chantrelles, on the other hand, had soul siren Chance Lovett leading the proceedings, with the audience eating up slow-cooked Memphis grit from the palm of her hand from the first song to the last. Lovett has grace, poise, and powerful pipes, and her well-dressed backing band is sympathetic to her every whim, bending and swinging the music to the funky beat.
However, this soul show was almost a no show. Earlier in the day, the band’s van broke down in Hope, after three-and-a-half weeks on a Cross Canada tour to Montreal and back. They had to cab into Vancouver while BCAA saved the day, towing the van to the Biltmore.
The Chantrelles didn’t let this minor setback get them down, as they plowed through a set of retro soul tunes that would have sounded right at home in Muscle Shoals Studios between sessions by Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin.
“Ain’t Nobody Home” was driven by a rippling clean guitar tone, punctuated by the occasional Who-style crunch and killer back-up vocals and harmonies. A call and response breakdown drove most of the already enthusiastic audience into a frenzy.
But the band also knew when to slow things down, like on “Ooh Me.” This show-stopper has all the makings of a classic slow jam for a ‘60s school gym dance.
The Chantrelles brought ‘60s soul music back to life. The band is true to the groove laid down by Stax house band Booker T. and the MGs and the interplay of trumpet and sax are the Cool Whip on their soul food for the ears.
The Chantrelles are not as forward thinking as Janelle Monae and not as focused on the past as Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, but luckily, that leaves them stuck in the present with us.