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Mike Barfield's Funk Machine Was One for the Vice Squad

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Mike Barfield Under the Volcano January 28, 2015

I missed the first song of Mike Barfield's set at Under the Volcano Wednesday night, but walking in midway through "Funky Popcorn," I immediately knew two things: The band was bringing the funk hard and dirty, and some pony-tailed blonde was into it enough to do a body-shake that would put many an exotic dancer to shame.

The attack was brutal. This was no Suffers with nine pieces to build a sound around; just three hungry Austin headhunters and one tacky, bodacious hillbilly soul man cut from Joe Tex/James Brown cloth. They were putting the sex factor in it, along with plenty of "we're just a bit over the redline" attitude. Guitarist Johnny Moeller (Fabulous Thunderbirds) locked into some deep, dark riffing and hips ground in the room again.

It was like a disease, irresistible, futile to fight against. There was no flu shot for this plague. Meanwhile Barfield's dance moves brought on visions of Jethro Bodean finding himself lost in the Soul Train line dance and finding that he fit right in, as the rhythm section brought the Soul Train strut hard, driving the aggregate temperature even higher.

Eventually the songs all ran together as Barfield and his crew filled the small dance floor with a dozen ladies who came out to get their boogaloo on. The bump-and-grind blonde was no longer alone in her shake-that-thing efforts; if the vice squad or the fire department had showed up, no one would have been surprised in the least.

They cooled it down a bit with "Tears on My Pillow." They call them panty-droppers in the trade. Delbert McClinton doesn't do this any better than Barfield and his mates do it.

Moeller got all crazy again on "Trouble," beating on his Stratocaster like a man possessed of alcohol and evil spirits. There's a reason Moeller is a rock star in his real life: he's a one-man boogie machine. When he and Barfield duet with falsetto harmonies, the effect is almost unsettling coming from two men who look like they might be in prison tomorrow.

Story continues on the next page.

It was perhaps the largest crowd Barfield has drawn over half a dozen performances at Volcano in the past few years. And that crowd, most of them old Hollisters fans from back in the day, came to see Barfield and band do what they do best: make sure that party rock lives on in the funkiest of fashion.

REWIND: The Return of the Band of Rhythm and Pleasure (March 31, 2005)

Personal Bias: I've seen Barfield for 25 years now and he still never mails it in. It's always full throttle, like a man possessed.

The Crowd: Old-schoolers from the Hollisters' glory days.

Overheard In the Crowd: "They need to install a pole when Barfield plays."

Random Notebook Dump: With the dance moves he's got, Barfield should do a Richard Simmons exercise video.

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