Binky Griptite Slides His Way Back to the Blues

Robert Menzer for the Village Voice
Binky Griptite at home in Bed-Stuy
It's strange to watch Binky Griptite sit still, and stranger still for him to be still.

Griptite is a kinetic, time-keeping force, and easily recognizable to fans of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings as the guitarist in the band's front line whose step is as sure as the click of a metronome. While Griptite isn't on the percussion side of things for the Dap-Kings, he, along with the full ensemble of brass-blowing, bass-thumping, string-snapping soul purveyors onstage with Jones at any given moment, is very much a constant in motion, shifting side to side with the beat rolling in behind him, just as James Brown's guys did back in the day. Griptite can play his guitar behind his back — the swiftness with which he can hoist the sleek, ebony body of the Gibson up and over his shoulders is practically feline — and he can riff while nearly tap-dancing in a buttoned-up suit, in double-time, without breaking a sweat. After a year of exhaustive touring behind Give the People What They Want and with another trek on the horizon, it's a rare moment to catch him without the company of the Dap-Kings and at home in Bed-Stuy on the couch, the Gibson nearby in its case as he fixates on a weathered acoustic he picked up on the street in New Orleans while on tour.

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Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - 2/6/13 - Beacon Theatre

Better Than: Pretty much everything.

About a month ago, Sharon Jones was finishing up her final chemo treatment in an attempt to trounce the cancer that threatened to silence her. Two weeks ago today, she announced that she was cancer-free. Last night, she launched her 10-week comeback tour at the Beacon Theatre by kicking off her shoes, pulling members of the audience up onstage to dance with her and powering through two hours of a flawless, nonstop soul marathon.

See also: Sharon Jones Rebounds After Cancer

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Live: VH1 Brings Out The Divas At The Hammerstein Ballroom

via VH1
VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul
Hammerstein Ballroom
Sunday, December 18

Better than: Whatever Ryan Seacrest is going to cook up for VH1 Soul.

Last night's VH1 Divas taping existed both as a performance and self-contained, 24-hours-out advertising opportunity for its broadcast. (Tonight at 9 ET!) TV tapings are always strange to experience first-hand, given the way they're designed for after-the-fact consumption; there are lots of long lulls in the action for the purposes of commercial breaking/set redesigning, and in "let's all get together and put on a show" scenarios like this one there are TelePrompTers with lyrics ready to assist the under-rehearsed. Despite the breaks and assists, though, this taping didn't have the hermetically sealed feeling of ones I attended during the pre-social-media era—people were encouraged to tweet and Foursquare check-in and let their pals on social media know what they were experiencing via corporately provided hashtag. In the 21st century, after all, all publicity is.

The night's bent toward soul meant that most of the acts on the bill had pipes and cred—Chaka Khan, Mavis Staples, Martha Reeves, and Wanda Jackson represented for the pre-music-video era, while the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Ledisi, Jill Scott, and Jennifer Hudson were among the new-schoolers. Jessie J's tireless, apparently unending promotional campaign also continued here; her new party trick involves her stuttering out words instead of singing them in toto, a tic that serves to both illuminate the bleatiness of her voice and make her seem even more malleable and annoying. She's the opposite of a diva, her jet-black-dyed artifice doing a miserable job of covering up the void within; I expect either a turn to Christian rock or the "mysterious" leak of a sex tape within the next 12 months.

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