The Free Nationals Maurice “MoBetta” Brown and Thundercat, after-partying on stage like pros.
The Free Nationals' Maurice “MoBetta” Brown, Anderson .Paak (on drums in the back), and Thundercat, after-partying on stage like pros. Lester Black

Anderson .Paak and his touring band The Free Nationals must have gotten lost last night trying to find the new Highway 99 tunnel on their way from a headline show at WaMu Theatre to their own after-party at Nectar Lounge. The fans sure found their way from north—there was a line stretching to the corner at 11:30 pm, when it was scheduled to start, and an impromptu singalong in harmony of Thundercat (who opened for .Paak). But for those hoping to hear the stacked lineup of funk/hip-hop/soul/R&B crossover artists in a more intimate setting than the cavernous WaMu, well, they had to wait. And wait. At one point, Free Nationals bandleader and trumpeter par excellence Maurice “MoBetta” Brown took the stage to toot along with the instantly recognizable horn riff in Outkast’s “Spottieottiedopaliscious” playing over the house speakers. Brown was wearing a black t-shirt with the gold sequin outline of a trumpet and twirled his instrument deftly like a champion sign spinner.
MoBetta Lester Black

But it was just a tease. He ducked backstage and the capacity crowd was left to wait patiently for round two, though they were apparently still buzzing enough from the WaMu show not to complain about dropping $40 for a set that was destined to last under an hour. Indeed, it wasn’t until just after 1 am that a full cadre of musicians finally took the stage for an extended jam session. With the aforementioned Brown on trumpet joined by two drum kits, bass, guitar, trombone, sax, backup singers, and guest vocalists, the stage got crowded quickly.

The jam drifted from surf rock to funky with bilingual English-Spanish lyrics to R&B crooners, but Nectar’s techs failed to keep up with the constantly shifting stage dynamics. Local Afrofuturist singer SassyBlack—one of several Seattleites to guest at the after-party—struggled to be heard over the Free Nationals’ wall of sound. Soul sensation Tiffany Wilson fared better, her rich voice echoing through Nectar and stirring up the crowd.

SassyBlack Lester Black

Tiffany Wilson stirring up the crowd.
Tiffany Wilson stirring up the crowd. Lester Black

Local instrumentalists who were invited to join the Free Nationals shined through. Jazz cat Skerik on sax and trombonist Jason Cressey both nabbed solos, a nod to our homegrown talent that can mesh easily with the likes of a nationally touring band of the Free Nationals’ caliber. The easy blend allowed the likes of .Paak and Thundercat to put aside their star power and just become another member of the band. They took turns at the drums and bass, respectively, illustrating their talent beyond the voice. Thundercat looked particularly comfy as he sat criss-cross applesauce in flaming red-orange boxing shorts noodling around on the bass.
MoBetta and Paak jamming out.
MoBetta and Paak jamming out. Lester Black

Thundercat, Honey Paak, and Alayna.
Thundercat, Honey Paak, and Alayna. Lester Black

Back in the crowd, it was a Where’s Waldo of musical talent as I spied Shabazz Palaces’ Tendai Maraire busting a little groove and Earl Sweatshirt hanging loose after also rocking the WaMu mainstage. These mini-celebrity sightings added to the after-party appeal. Indeed, the constant shuffle onstage and even the technical glitches ultimately had their own kind of charm: this was a jam session, not an arena concert, and it felt to the audience like we were given the privilege of hanging out at the recording studio while top-flight musicians worked through material. Being a fly on the wall never felt so groovy.
Earl was there
Earl was there Lester Black

Free Nationals
Free Nationals Lester Black

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