The Soundtrack of My Life: The Van Hunt Edition
Not Van Halen. And, please, for the love of god, not Van Who?
If you haven't had the pleasure yet, Van's the Man. Yeah, there may be rumors that he grew up in Ohio, but the real story? Clearly, Van Hunt is the funky musical love child of Sly Stone, Lenny Kravitz and Jimi Hendrix. Don't even try to deny it. My ears don't lie.
My love affair goes way back to the Summer of 2004. Van and his band, all suited up, yup, even with ties, performed to a packed house at the Black Rep in Providence. My husband Andre and I managed to snag a booth right in front of the stage, where we got down with our pal Rhodes, before he decided to move on out for the bright lights of the Big Apple.
Sure, VH had it going on with his stylized neo-soul sound, layered brass and smooth vocals, on tracks like 'Dust', 'Her December' and my all time favorite, 'What Can I Say'. (Go on, play it live if you must. I'll accept the dedication.) But what really got me hooked was Van's depth of character. Saddled up to the bar after the PVD show, Van Hunt thanked me for buying his album.
Sincere. Modest. Grateful. And you call yourself a rock star? Consider me hooked.
July 2006 brought the celebration to the Middle East in Cambridge. This time, the guest of honor was album number two, On The Jungle Floor. And while we came for Van, we left with two major discoveries: The Brand New Heavies, or more specifically, for Andre, lead singer N'Dea, as well as the eventual crazy realization, that my-not-yet-pal Vickie, was the one grooving stageside in that red hat.
My first visit to Western, MA, in July, 2008? Courtesy of Van. For reasons I still don't quite understand, and he probably doesn't either, he touched down in the R&B bastion of the Northeast--Northampton--because nothing says funk like a historic coffeehouse, serving up hummus platters in the middle of nowhere. Maybe he was looking for a little anonymity, to regroup after two labels foolishly dropped him. And oh, he got that. We passed Van in the scary basement on our way to the rest room--without a bit of recognition. Upstairs, he turned it out. Solo. On a piano. And not for one instance did we feel like he was doing us a favor.
Humility at its finest.
The next chapter? Saturday. March 31, 2012. Fete. Providence. An outstanding new club. A brilliant new album: 'What Were You Hoping For?' A complex psychedelic new sound that's a bit more raw, but features the same brilliant songwriting. Tickets are a crazy $15 in advance.
And, best of all, Van Hunt has given Boston the bypass for us.
So, please, whatever you do, don't leave him hangin'.