Shake yo’ boo-tay

It’s no secret that DJ-run dance nights at local clubs are out-drawing live bands. It’s a phenomenon that seems very much a part of humanity’s instinct to herd: People go to clubs where people already are, and they do so to be a part of the crowd, to mingle and participate in the ongoing dance party that is Sacramento’s nightlife.

Of course, in the midst of DJ dance nights, there are a few bands capitalizing on this same phenomenon, basing their musical output on the idea that if there is music suitable for ass-shaking, an audience will present itself.

Enter two bands with serious ass-shaking abilities: Phat Mama and Brother Nefarious. Both bands present their music with a clear purpose: to get the audience moving to the beat. And both bands, at a gig last weekend at The Distillery, proved that, in this, they are very, very capable indeed.

Phat Mama is something of a Sacramento-area supergroup, bringing members from the wreckage of Supaphat, Mama’s Gravy and Nothing and recombining to form a funk-flavored powerhouse; the band takes the best vocal qualities of “Superstition”-era Stevie Wonder and blends them with an electric, alternative sound. The result is an infectious, funky brew of tight, heavy rhythms that sounds, in its best moments, like a slightly more soulful Blues Traveler. This facet is particularly true of the jam-band quality of some of Phat Mama’s more protracted instrumental moments, when the band locks into a particular groove and lets its fine instrumentalists stretch out their skills.

The evening’s headliner, Brother Nefarious, was every bit as active as its predecessor. Here, a similar core funk-based sound was coupled with a tight, percussive edge. As with Phat Mama, Brother Nefarious featured dual vocalists, essentially meaning that the vocals almost never stopped. Because the vocalist often provides the focal point of a band’s sound, this essentially meant that, for the audience, there was always something to focus on. And focus they did: Brother Nefarious got the entire audience dancing and jumping to the music, and its members continued to fan the flames through the course of the evening. It was an inspired performance.

Brother Nefarious’ vibe is heavily reminiscent of another funk/rock supergroup: War, particularly its 1972 album The World Is a Ghetto and its characteristic hit “The Cisco Kid.” Like local act Raigambre, Brother Nefarious seems to look toward War as something of a blueprint for its sound. But while Raigambre utilizes War’s tendencies to build laid-back California grooves and peppers them with Latin rhythms, Brother Nefarious takes that same general energy and cranks it up to 11, trading Latin for African rhythms and playing with a sense of funky abandon. The effect on the audience was like magic: There wasn’t a foot in the house that wasn’t tapping to the beat.

Incidentally, this show was a production of SiC Entertainment, a relatively new local promoter. If SiC continues to promote shows of this quality, it will be a local force to be reckoned with. Check out the company’s Web site,, for upcoming events.