On Sunday, April 30th, members of Turkuaz, The Motet, Snarky Puppy, and many more gathered onstage in the heart of New Orleans to send a simple message…”FU*K 2016!” While last year marked an era of divisiveness, most of us were able to agree on this sentiment. From the ugly, insult-driven presidential election, to the endless outbreaks of violence around the globe, it seemed like every time you turned around there was more bad news to process. The general shitty-ness of of the last calendar year hit the music world particularly hard. From David Bowie in early January to George Michael on Christmas day, last year seemed to take amazing artists from this Earth at an alarming rate. Thankfully all things, bitter and sweet, come to an end. And luckily for us, the talented “FU*K 2016” lineup (led by Turkuaz’s Craig Brodhead) came together to celebrate the joy created by these amazing performers rather than quietly lament their loss, and turned the giant lemon that was 2016 into funky lemonade!
As the “FU*K 2016” band gathered backstage at the venerable Howlin’ Wolf making their final plans, the pedal steel guitar strains of openers RumpleSTEELskin, a Revivalists side project, warmed up the crowd admirably. Ed Williams has always been a lightning rod for attention at Revivalists shows thanks to his dramatic style of play, often rising to his feet and bending his instrument as well as the string in wild displays of passion. Williams commanded the crowd on the mic as well, joking about the band’s lack of preparation and sad inability to even name their tunes with remarkable charm. Though they may have lacked some of the more standard Revivalists bells and whistles, they, more than made up for it with a stellar performance featuring a wonderful two-song sit-in from another “sacred steel” player, the good Dr. himself: Roosevelt Collier. After attributing a few of their instrumentals to the “Late Brittany Spears” in jest, they closed with a bombastic take on Led Zeppelin‘s “Dazed and Confused” that left the already-packed house reeling and ready for the fun yet to come.
The eager audience didn’t have long to wait as the battle-tested Howlin’ Wolf crew reset the stage with an efficiency born from hundreds of nights of practice. There was barely an inch to spare when the final player took the stage and the clarion call to party, David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” kicked off the parade of classic hits from the fallen of 2016. Lyle Divinsky (The Motet) and Shira Elias (Turkuaz) shouldered the lion’s share of the lead vocal duties, singing with passion and charisma. As Divinsky wound through classics from Earth, Wind & Fire and Leon Russell, he showcased the range and presence that made him one of the most in-demand sit-in performers of the 2017 Jazz Fest late night circuit.
The pair of George Michael covers in the middle of the set (“I Want Your Sex” and “Freedom!”) and the Prince deep cut that followed (“Sexy Dancer”) proved to be one of the tightest segments of the night, the whole room getting down to the deep, funky grooves. The double talk-box keyboard battle between Joey Porter and Steveland Swatkins on “Freedom” was worth the ticket price in itself. When it came time to honor the Purple One, the almighty Prince, the architects of the performance chose to go for the deep cuts, hitting a pair of under-appreciated gems from his unfathomably large catalog instead of more predictable popular hits.
Of course, that didn’t mean that the talented lineup was afraid to take on the iconic tunes. The powerful ensemble tackled a pair of Parliment-Funkadelic tracks in honor of the late Bernie Worrell, including “Mothership Connection” and “Starchild,” before finishing the main set with a roaring rendition of the infectious Tower Of Power track “What Is Hip” for the late Mic Gillette. Revisiting the Earth, Wind & Fire catalog and the radiant spirit of Maurice White one last time for an encore of “In The Stone,” the musical collective kept the pedal pressed to the floor for one last burst of love and respect.
With the recent losses of luminaries like Butch Trucks and Col. Bruce Hampton, we have already seen the beginnings of what could well be another year of heart-breaking losses. Thankfully, as the “Fu*k 2016” tribute showcase remarkably illustrated, there is a positive to be found in these troubled circumstances: We can choose to celebrate the lives of these fallen friends rather than lament their losses. For one night in New Orleans, the spirits of the artists we lost in 2016 returned to life on the stage. But if we keep these memories alive in our hearts, then those that gave us so much in life will live as long as the stars themselves.
Below, you can watch full video of “FU*K 2016: A Funky Tribute To Musicians We Lost” below courtesy of videographer John Peckham of ConcertCasters, and view a gallery of photos from the incredible night of music via photographer Jeremy Scott:
SETLIST: FU*K 2016: A Funky Tribute To Musicians We Lost | Howlin’ Wolf | New Orleans, LA | 4/30/17 | Photos by Jeremy Scott
Let’s Dance, Shining Star, Tell Me, How Long Do I Have To Wait, Delta Lady, You Got To Funkifize, Off The Wall , I Want Your Sex, Freedom!, Sexy Dancer, Ballad of Dorothy Parker, One Nation Under A Groove, Mothership Connection, What Is Hip
Encore: In The Stone
In memory of:  David Bowie;  Prince;  Sharon Jones;  Maurice White; Bernie Worrell;  Leon Reussell;  George Michael;  Rod Temperton;  Mic Gillette (Tower of Power)
“Fu*k 2016: A Tribute To Musicians We Lost” Artist Lineup
Maurice “Mobetta” Brown