Brooklyn groove merchants Pimps of Joytime returned to the East Bay on Friday, January 11th for yet another sizzling tour de force, throwing down for a packed house at Oakland’s The New Parish. On the West Coast for just a pair of mid-January dates, this newly-configured lineup delivered a standout dance session, light on electronics, greasy on the mojo, and heavy on the funky jams. The stripped-down nature of this particular presentation allowed for the strength of the songs to take center stage.
The brainchild of frontman/guitarist/songwriter Brian J., Pimps of Joytime have known many members through the dozen or so years they’ve been active; J.being the only constant, consistently leading his eclectic troupe through a bubblin’ gumbo of minimalist funk, New Orleans groove, electro-jams, Afrobeat, Latin rhythms, and many points between. Longtime foil Mayteana Morales remains in the fold, a vivacious yang to J.’s reserved and focused yin. Morales’ furious styles on percussion and magnanimous voice were a riveting force of nature all night, and made for some palpable onstage chemistry.
Morales, along with the multi-talented David Bailis (bassist in Pimps of Joytime), were pulling double duty for some California love; in addition to their pair of performances with The Pimps, the duo’s phenomenal side-project Walk Talk was also gigging throughout the golden state this month. It’s clear that their kinetic energy transfers from one collective to the next, as Mayteana and David were both in the proverbial zone, creative juices flowing feverishly all night from stage at The New Parish.
Rounding out the current lineup is the sturdy foundation of bassist David Bailis, and new (ish) drummer Anthony Cole, who slid into the drum seat silky smooth (taking over for the amazing John Staten) and rest assured, my man fits like a glove. Beloved vocalist Kim Dawson is also no longer an active member, choosing to focus on the new project Matador! Soul Sounds. For recent engagements, the POJ lineup has been rounded out by underground legend Takuya Nakamura (veteran of Jojo Mayer/NERVE, and brother of iconic producer Dan the Automator), who’s contributions on keyboards and trumpet were choice elements on a fantasticly-freaky Friday. This was the first time this writer had heard this krewe perform without employing electronics, that means no Ableton tracks, samplers, or live production onstage, making for a new-style and organic aesthetic to the ever-evolving Pimps of Joytime.
The band came out the gates firing on all cylinders, after a spirited opening set from Midtown Social. A one-two punch of “Heart is Wild” and the Bayou-twang “Jump Off,” both found on 2015’s Jukestone Paradise, set the tone for a saucy and salacious evening. Later in the set, they reached into the way-back machine for beloved deep cut “My Gold”, birthed on their debut full-length LP High Steppin’released in 2007. In an instant they’d chase that throwback by fast-forwarding to their most recent release Third Wall Chronicles (2017), dropping “This Funk (Give Me a Hand). The entire venue was hootin’ and hollerin’, as the groove stomped around with reckless abandon, while the erstwhile Cole le bon temps roule, steady and sturdy with dynamic syncopated beats. As the night wore on, everyone in the band found their sweet spots; Morales’ vocals soaring atop the grittiness, with Nakamura’s ethereal trumpet lines the opiate tones breathing beneath. Throughout the performance, POJ delved in and out of Latin vibes, Afrobeat, Uptown Funk (NOLA not Bruno), as serene pop choruses and stomp-yo-feet rockers saddled up next to a plethora of other plates. In spite of the lineup changes, the Pimps musical offerings remain as tastily diverse as ever.
“Keep the Music Playing” and “Bonita” were both performed with the usual panache we’ve come to expect from the Pimps when the hour grows late, and the energy was wholeheartedly reciprocated- this capacity crowd was pretty damn juiced at the stroke of midnight. After a raucous ovation and a side stage band huddle, Brian J. and company reappeared, immediately diving headfirst into their most celebrated anthem, the irresistible title track to 2011’s Janxta Funk!. Predictably, the entire venue exploded in a display of the swankiest and most suggestive dancing all night. The Pimps of Joytime’s smiling faces told the tale, the vibe in the audience did the same, and appropriately, “Body Party” sent us all shaking our tailfeathers into the night, joyfully pimpin’ it all the way home.
Setlist: Pimps of Joytime | The New Parish | Oaktown, CA | 1/11/19
Heart is Wild, Jump Off, Jack Stackin’, Pimpin’, Bang it On, Playa Card, My Gold, This Funk (Give Me A Hand), Keep That Music Playin, Bonita.
Encore: Janxta Funk, Body Party
*full set with special guest Takuya Nakamura on keyboards and trumpet