Consider the mushroom

Funky town: The first time I met Ideateam drummer Joey Carusi was at a hazy, raucous George Clinton concert. So when I see him outside of the Torch Club the night his lotsa-piece funk group and hometown weird-ass favorites Big Sticky Mess are playing a benefit concert for California fire victims, I’m expecting the funk in its purest primordial form: A confluence of tight, technical tunes dripping with that amalgam of mud and forest floor, where spores rise of their own accord and you have no choice but to sit and sully your blue-and-white dress to consider the mushroom, to heed the nearby placard reading: “Eat me.”

The best thing about the Torch is its varied clientele: broke Midtown youth ready to groove alongside suburbanite mamas and papas out for one evening to prove they’ve still got it.

Big Sticky Mess takes the stage clad in Star Wars onesies and frat-boy plastic sunglasses. The bassist plods around barefoot, and the funk commences. It’s not just the weird outfits and spaceship energy that make these guys so magnetic—their lyrics are punchy and fun, demanding the gyrating crowd participate: “I met some aliens / I tried their drugs.

“And I liked it.”

In the end, Big Sticky Mess serves up two gooey sets, ending its finale with the pleasing affirmation that “everybody’s freaky.”

When Ideateam starts, Torch patrons are already intoxicated with booze and grooves and the unfettered joy of having found a babysitter for the evening.

The band’s style of funk knows no brand, but one thing is true: it’s a party and everyone’s invited onstage. On this night they’re a seven-piece set with two brass players and a bongo man. Now there are nine, a soul collective with two singers rising from the ether to woo with a cover of “Love and Happiness.” The singers recede backstage and now there are 10 and—where did that tuba come from?

Ideateam’s crowd-pleasers are its classics, in which the brass section serves up would-be lyrics through melody and each member onstage knows, by the resonating sound of their instruments, precisely what the others are doing and how they’re feeling—a veritable funk family.

—Dave Kempa

All in the family: Goodbyes are never easy, but for Big Mike and the Rhythm Section it was a rather emotionally incendiary occasion.

With a move to Los Angeles next week, Michael “Big Mike” Hart Jr. and his band put on a solid farewell show to a sold-out Harlow’s Restaurant & Night Club last Thursday night.

Hart’s uncle, Jimi “Bottom Hammock” Morris, worked in conjunction with the nightclub to send his nephew off “in high fashion,” as Hart relayed to the crowd. Morris is a founder of the popular cover group Mercy Me!, and he helped expedite Hart’s tuneful trade early on.

The original plan for Big Mike was to shift down south and pursue a career revolving around production, songwriting and session work. But with the release of his debut album Young Man Old Soul, he has sparked a fresh smooth-jazz sound and his calling as a full-blown artist.

Highlights from the show included “Hybrid,” with a traditional jazzy arrangement that showcased extended solos from the band. Also, a collaboration with Morris and his wife Julie Morris on a song called “Midnight Love.” This neo-soul love ballad, sung between the longtime couple, lit up the stage with undeniable chemistry. But the most enjoyable cry of the night, for Hart especially, came with the rendition of “Blessed” with his cousin Ja’Net N. Miller on vocals. His philosophy especially rang true here: “Inspire people no matter who they are, no matter what they’re doing, and no matter what they’re going through to remember they’re blessed despite the circumstances,” he said.

Big Mike and the Rhythm Section’s finale showed an assured familiarity both onstage and off. It let folks see his impending expedition to L.A. ought to have as much in store as the Sacramento prelude that’s gotten him here.

—Derek Kaplan