by Michelle Leah
Close your eyes and feel the vibrations from the tips of your toes as they begin to curl to the end of your fingertips. Listen to the South Street buzz through the rain soaked wind. Breathe deep as the aroma of aftershave and cologne mixes with the burnt flash of the stage lights and dusty amplifiers. If you’re beginning to feel like this is a description belonging to the romance section of the bookstore, with a picture of Fabio on a cover, think again. However, this is only one description I can give after completely losing myself within the most recent Black Stars show at the Legendary Dobbs.
Calling home in Marlton, New Jersey, Black Stars raged onto the scene in January 2010. Having been best friends since around the age of 14, lead Singer Nik Greeley and drummer Mike Keyack through their passion for music, could feel the itch to start a band. Greeley found his passion in the music that his dad listened to, classic music of the 60s and 70s. The kind of music that has been given the stigmata of remaining “dad” music. “. . . is timeless music that means the most to me.” After branching out to try other musical avenues, but determined to hold on to their one true love, Greeley and Keyack found a bass player to match their passion in “Freshy.” Chester Drago, lead guitar was the last piece of the puzzle. Greeley himself admits that, “finding Chester was our miracle.” Together, these four classically pay homage to the greats who have come before while embracing their unique and soulful sound, laid-back look, and lyrical masterpieces that make them the Rock stars they have every right to be titled.
Fresh from their first completed album, Raise Your Soul is the perfect combination of sexy funkadelics to get anyone’s night started out right. Imagine you find the girl of your dreams and you take her back to your place. Who cares about whispering sweet nothings, Greeley’s almost breathless, yet rough around the edges voice will have her begging for more by the end of the song. As the night progresses and your hearts are beating faster and faster, Keyack’s drum control is perfectly aligned to increase anyone’s heart medication. However, it was the groove and pure funk of “Leave me Alone” that transported me back to a time of love beads and psychedelics, a song that emitted pure sexual energy for the rest of the night. “Freshy” was the first one who caught my attention. His rhythmic stroking and plucking of the bass eventually followed in perfect unison with his whole body. Shortly after, Drago began doing the same thing, his body seemingly connected with what can only be described as sexual ecstasy. “She’s a hurricane, gonna blow you straight away. . .” although the title of the song would imply a message of refusal, it’s the chemistry of Greeley’s slippery steel voice intertwined with Keyack’s “tapping that” playing attitude that genuinely shows how much enthusiasm they have for their art. When the lights are so hot they’re about to pop, and everyone’s eyes are on that stage, these boys come to life, and literally make love to their music.
When it comes to virtuosity, Keyack just may well have it all. The guy is full of surprises and a set of pipes. With a new song not yet even titled, but for the time being they’ll call it “Mike’s Song,” it’s one hell of a tune to come down off an incredible high and slow things down. As with most music, the inspiration comes from love, both the good and the bad. Whoever this song may have been inspired by, through every word, chord, and amplifier, this guy has definitely been struck by cupid.
As if there wasn’t enough sex in this article or about this show, Black Stars ended the night strong with something in my personal opinion every show anywhere should end with, “Sex in E.” Their title not mine. Overloaded with funk, the audience or the girl back your place is ready for that final release. And boy, do these guys deliver. Keyack’s got our hearts racing, “Freshy” and Drago are still plucking and stroking those insane chords, while Greeley frees the audience of all built up tension with some intense gritty extended notes. Satiated and spent the audience, who by the way, has left my vision of Woodstock and entered reality with hippie loving dreadlocks, plaid shirts, and bandanas sends some of the love back to Black Stars for an amazing show that is the pure definition of Rock n’ Roll.
If there is one thing emanating from Black Stars, other than the over emphasized sexuality, it is their embrace of family. Having been called the “dad” of the band himself, Greeley pours with emotion about what the Legendary Dobbs means to them, “Dobbs is like our second family, they took us under their wing.” As for the rest of the Philly music scene, having performed in over 50 venues including, The Trocadero, The North Star Bar and The Grape Room, and alongside some legendary talent themselves such as The Stone Foxes, Early Ape and Bong Hits for Jesus, Black Stars are forever grateful to have found a home here. But they are ready to soar for what’s beyond, “We have kicked Philly’s ass, and at some point, there is only so much ass you can kick.”
Currently Black Stars is in the middle of recording their second album and are preparing for Hollystock Music and Arts Festival. I have said it before and I will say it again, this is a band you do not want to miss.