“The lyrics to this next song are very black, see, back when I had my band [Cookin' Bag] we set out to change the world with our music, and we did. By participating in the civil rights movement, and fighting to have the same rights as whites, we changed the world.” This is how Herman Brown described the body of work played by the Wheedle's Groove Band Saturday night at the Neptune.

Wheedles Groove
  • Sean Jewell
  • Wheedle's Groove

The first thing I noticed about the renovated Neptune Theater is that it smells like popcorn (vs the spilled beer and sweat boquet most venues offer these days). This is because the theater concession stands are still in place, with all the movie treats you'd expect. Its spiral hallways weave around the outside of the theater in ramps that dead end in restrooms and portal window doors that open onto the theater floor. Inside, a small balcony overlooks the spacious dancefloor surrounded by stained glass windows glowing with the likenesses of Roman gods like Neptune, and atlantids with eerie LED eyes looking down on the crowd, all this is bathed in reflective lighting that resembles the glare of water at night.

It's a historic landmark in the University District, repurposed by Seattle Theater Group for use as a music and theater venue. It's interior is sparse, and a bit cold without the folding movie theater seating on the bottom floor, but the cylindrical shape makes every spot in the house pretty acoustically suitable to a show.

More after the jump!

I arrived at the start of Acapulco Gold's set, the balcony was full of onlookers, and the dancefloor was nearly empty. Young white kids smug with their knowledge of such a funky treasure as Wheedle's Groove held up the backlit bar, keeping the cans of Pabst flying off the shelves, while older black folks in upscale suits sat at looked sated. Elderly white women danced (or attempted to) as their dates (mostly) stood next to them. Acapulco Gold warmed the stage with originals like "We Are Only People," "Simple Life," and the house heating last song, "Funky Feelin'," a horn heavy head bobber that had the people ready for more.

I spotted members of Wheedle's Groove on the side of the stage and went to stand by them in hopes of hearing some gossip under the wah-wah and wail. What I got was a wafting of the most pungent medicinals I've ever smelled. You could've smelled that sweetleaf all the way from the Central District. It was so powerful that in the vicinity of the *Wheedle's one could not smell the popcorn anymore, just the funk.

After a short intermission, all of Wheedle's Groove band that could fit wafted on to the stage. A full horn section, two keyboard players, three guitarists (including Herman Brown, de facto band leader, and decidedly best dressed Wheedle in a white suit and skimmer straw hat) and set of congas surrounded Clarence “Bash” Robinson's massive drumset. They broke into their “getting in tune” opener "Glory to God," then sprung right into the happy, and perfectly nonsensical funk number "Humpty Dumpty" with Frankie Brown on vocals.

Here and there, in between songs, the emcee would come out to pitch the Wheedle's Groove documentary, and CDs, and drop some history on the people. There was talk of the days of KYAL, and Herman Brown paid respects to friend and recording engineer Kearney Barton who died earlier this year.

Most entertaining about the Wheedle's Groove band is the family affair idea. The members who still play have leaned or relearned the hit orginals of all the other groups of the day. In one show you get the same treatment you get from their Seattle's Finest in Funk & Soul CD, seeing and hearing various artists like Robbie Hill Family Affair, Cookin' Bag, Broham (Curtis Hammond, one half of Broham, was in the running for best dressed in pin stripes and purple suede shoes, swag set on five million, y'all), Cold Bold & Together (Jamar Jenkins plays rhythm on every track these days), and most entertaining of the night for me, the painfully beautiful, and still-strong-as-the-’60s soul vocals of Pastor Patrinell (Staten) Wright on "Little Love Affair", and Ural Thomas's "Pain Is the Name of Your Game".

Wheedle's Groove is the ’60s and ’70s funk and soul band that makes the historical linkage between the jazz and swing heydays of Etta James, Quincy Jones, and Ray Charles in the 40s and 50 to the late 80s rise of Arm, Wood, Cobain, Vedder, they're not just a regional but a national treasure, and should you got to see them, and remember, you can NOT over-dress for their show.

The Power Of Patrinella Wright
  • Sean Jewell
  • The Power Of Patrinella Wright

Ural Thomas Brings The Pain
  • Sean Jewell
  • Ural Thomas Brings The Pain

Curtis Hammond (Broham)
  • Sean Jewell
  • Curtis Hammond (Broham)

Jamar Jenkins (Cold, Bold & Together)
  • Sean Jewell
  • Jamar Jenkins (Cold, Bold & Together)

Clarence Bash Robinson
  • Sean Jewell
  • Clarence "Bash" Robinson

Robbie Hills Family Affair
  • Sean Jewell
  • Robbie Hill's Family Affair

*I did not know that the Wheedle was the Sonics mascot before the Sasquatch. Did you?