Yesterday was, by mayoral proclamation, Wheedle's Groove Day, and it sure felt like it for the bands' afternoon set on the Fisher Green lawn. Mayor McGinn introduced the band, noting that the '60s and '70s these long-forgotten local funk and soul bands emerged from was a time of civil rights struggles and progress, and he said that "if you've been reading the papers in the last few days, you know that we still have challenges with addressing historic injustices" and he advised people to have fun today, because that's what music is about, but to tomorrow go back to our communities and work to make them better. He then read the proclamation designating the day, getting huge cheers as he said the words "Wheedle's Groove Day."
Led by guitarist (and Vitamin D dad) Herman Brown, and with former KYAC radio DJ Robert Nesbitt providing backstory between songs, the Wheedle's Groove band played some numbers together and then provided backing as they cycled through performances by surviving and in some case rejuvenated line-ups of the Black On White Affair, Cold Bold and Together, Cookin' Bag and others. At first, from up in the beer garden things sounded kind of tame, and I feared that this was going to be some elevator-ready Frasier funk. But a quick relocation to up front on the lawn assuaged all fears: down there, the funk was brassy and thick and satisfying, the band sounding almost too big, even a potentially wonky wah wah guitar sounding fried electric.
Highlights came late in the set: Calvin Law leading the Black on White Affair wearing a frilly pearl pirate shirt (good Seinfeld ep.) set off by dad jeans and a purple baseball cap had to leave after only one song instead of his scheduled two because the band were running overtime. Then, there was some shuffling about backstage—McGinn exerting some mayoral muscle, perhaps?—and Law, who had been flown out from Salt Lake City for this, came back out, as Brown announced, "Ah, breaking news! They said don't worry about time...oh, but actually I got to get headed out to Lopez Island soon..." (they would make this Lopez Island joke again later, and it was fun to picture them all having a house party out there amongst the sheep-tending ladies and retirees). They played "Sweet Soul Lady," Law out from behind the keys and just singing into the mic, and Brown rightly observed after, "man, we would've been crazy not to let you do this second song."
And they kept it going, playing well past their allotted time. For the next song, a Frankie someone (couldn't catch it), a couple dreads flopping off his head and wearing a sharp suit (there were several dapper dresser onstage), came out and improvised a little number about "they gave me five minutes to rock the house/I only got five minutes to rock the house," counting off "1-2-3-4 five minutes" in proto-rap funk cadence and dancing low around the stage, whipping the crowd up. They closed with Robbie Hill's Family Affair's feel-good "I Just Want to Be (Like Myself)," singing refrain after gracious refrain like they just didn't want the set and their day in the (strictly proverbial) sun to end. As the song tapered off, vocalist Bernadette Bascom said, "we've never been happier," and you believed it.