SXSW 2012 Pics
Alarm Will Sound at the Abrons Arts Center

Bernie Worrell Orchestra at (Le) Poisson Rouge

by Brian Weidy

Bernie worrell

On a rare warm (and weekend) St. Patrick's Day, the Bernie Worrell Orchestra took over (Le) Poisson Rouge's early show slot. Bernie Worrell—keyboard player for seminal funk bands Parliament and Funkadelic—brings a unique approach to this brand of music, having been classically trained at both the Julliard School and the New England Conservatory of Music.

Opening with "Don't Piss Me Off" from his 1990 album, Funk of Ages, Worrell led the 10-piece band through funky lead after funky lead, using his half-sung, half-spoken vocals with well-timed horn stabs and keyboard riffs that could have come from Tom Morello or Buckethead's guitar. Next up was the harder-edged "Super Stupid" off of Funkadelic's 1971 classic, Maggot Brain. The song featured a fantastic solo from Worrell as well as a standout moments from Kyle Cadena and Andrew Kimball.

Halfway through the set, theremin player extraordinare Rob Schwimmer arrived to add some ambient sounds to the mix, starting with "You're My Thrill" off his latest album, Standards—a collection of nine of the most popular jazz standards that are given the total funk treatment. After two more songs with Schwimmer, the band closed out their set with a pair of P-Funk classics, including a raucous, set-closing "Dr. Funkenstein" that capped off the 75-minute set. For the band's encore, they tackled the Headhunters-era Herbie Hancock classic, "Watermelon Man."

Opening up the show was the incredibly talented Marco Benevento, who performed a 45-minute solo piano set, with Ween bassist and Marco Benevento Trio member Dave Dreiwitz sitting in for the last three songs of the set.