- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 22, 2003

This weekend, the 9:30 Club gets freaky and funky. Saturday night, shock rocker Marilyn Manson will try to make the goths go “whoa” one more time with his Grotesk Burlesk tour in support of his CD “The Golden Age of Grotesque,” which debuted this past Spring.

The vaudeville-themed spectacle, a macabre restyling of “Cabaret” and “Moulin Rouge” spiced with contortionist dancers, military get-ups, prosthetic appendages and even a kind of blackface Mickey Mouse, has been sold out for weeks.

“Shock was never my goal,” the man who once fitted himself with artificial breasts has said. “Provocative” and “controversial” are how he would rather be described. What is truly shocking, however, is discovering how smart, funny and down-to-earth he is as “himself” on shows such as the unscripted Bravo talk show “Dinner for Five,” as a guest on the call-in show “Loveline” or when interviewed by Michael Moore for the documentary “Bowling for Columbine.”

• • •

By Sunday night, the freak show will be over, but the beat goes on. (And on. And on.) Co-headliners MeShell NdegeOcello and Soulive will be getting their respective grooves on. Miss NdegeOcello, whose newest album, “Comfort Woman,” finds the D.C. native in a sparer, mellower mood than on last year’s heavily guested “Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape.”

The New York City-based trio Soulive fuses funk, jazz and hip-hop, delivering a seductively structured and original sound rather than the muddy, derivative mess lesser musicians might make. Its talent and dedication have earned the 4-year-old band praise from critics and musical peers who are eager to work with them.

Several members of the Soulive mutual admiration society contributed to its most recent CD, “Turn It Out Remixed,” which came out earlier this month. The disc is a reinvention of the group’s 2000 record, “Turn It Out,” with input from artists including Miss NdegeOcello, members of Los Angeles’ Jurassic 5 and jazz guitar giant John Scofield, as well as a handful of cutting-edge DJs.

“The idea came together when we were collaborating with some different MCs and rappers and they started asking us about remixing some of our music,” says guitarist Eric Krasno, who also produced several of the tracks on “Remixed.”

Mr. Krasno adds that “Turn It Out” was chosen for the remix treatment because it was an independently produced album that the band retained the rights to, unlike the recordings made while under contract with Blue Note. The band parted ways with the respected jazz label earlier this year, shortly after fulfilling its contract with the release of a self-titled live collection.

“Being on Blue Note gave us a reputation as a jazz group, and we kind of wanted to break out of the jazz scene a little,” Mr. Krasno says of the amicable parting with the label that is home to Cassandra Wilson, Norah Jones and Terence Blanchard.

“Our first record made sense on Blue Note. Now we’re trying to get promotion in different markets. We feel like we’re moving in different directions and adding a lot of elements to our stuff. It just felt like the right time to get a fresh start.”

For now, Soulive is content to finish its current tour, which — in addition to Mr. Krasno on guitar, drummer Alan Evans and his brother, Hammond B-3 organist Neal Evans — also includes a horn section and New Orleans funk legend Ivan Neville helping out on keyboards and vocals.

There are live bands and there are studio bands, and Soulive definitely belongs in the former category. Reviewers may rave about the recordings, but folks who have seen the group live are the ones who really keep Soulive alive.

“We definitely don’t depend on our records for our income. When we started, we weren’t even really thinking about making records,” Mr. Krasno says. “We’ve always been touring, and I think no matter what, we’ll be playing for people.”

The 9:30 Club is a typical stop on the Soulive train, though Mr. Krasno says they’ve played pretty much every kind of venue — from tiny, smoky clubs to giant stadiums (They’ve opened for Phish, Dave Matthews Band and the Rolling Stones.) — “sometimes all in the same month.” Part of the band’s live appeal lies in its unfailing commitment to the groove. “We improvise a lot, but it isn’t noodling,” Mr. Krasno says. “There’s always a backbeat. It’s very danceable.”

“We don’t ever want to get sick of what we’re doing and just go through the motions,” he concludes. ” ‘Cause the audience will know. If we’re having a good time, the audience will too.”

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