In 1962, an impoverished city boy sees James Brown perform at the legendary Apollo Theater. Inspired to follow in his footsteps, he forms a group, but they split when his bandmates are drafted to serve in Vietnam. Times are hard, and he sometimes sleeps in subway cars. So the kid does odd jobs and performs in tiny venues as a James Brown impersonator for decades to make ends meet. One night, a record exec catches his show and signs him to a label— and now he’s playing the Surf Stage at Hangout Fest 2015.
It sounds like Hollywood Oscar-bait, but it’s the story of Charles Bradley. The 66-year-old powerhouse is a proud member of Brooklyn’s Daptone Records stable of stars who keep the soul flame burning with their retro-tinged funk tracks. Along with his killer band, the aptly-named Extraordinaires, Bradley gave his all during his raging 90-minute Hangout set. He screamed, he split, he danced, he had several wardrobe changes, and jumped off the stage to hug everyone in the front row…individually!
In the audience, I had the pleasure of meeting a man who introduced himself as Talladega Tim. We got to talking, and he informed me that he saw James Brown and his Famous Flames perform back in the ’70s. I had to ask: how does Charles Bradley compare? “He’s not far off. In fact, he’s just about there!” You can say that again.
Watch him shout and shimmy in the clip above, and you’ll see what we mean.