If you’ve ever wondered what Lincoln Hall would look like if a huge dance party broke out, last night’s Dance Floor Plans set would have been a perfect display. The crowd exceeded my expectations in sheer number for a band playing their very first live show. I guess when you have James Johnston-the man that brought us Bumpus, which featured members of JC Brooks and The Uptown Sound-guiding the ship, people know to expect good things (though I personally can’t stand JC Brooks, I love The Uptown Sound).
The floor was basically empty as DJRC was spinning some funk/soul tracks from the balcony, but it started to fill up about five minutes before show time. Five minutes in to the set, you could barely move without bumping into someone. People were flocking to the stage to catch these R&B funksters rock out in every aspect of their show. Playing a 40-minute set as a band that only has two songs available to the public seems like it would be daunting, but these cats took it to another level.
The most important thing for a band like this, in my opinion, is a strong backup band. The dudes Dance Floor Plans have playing sax, trumpet, and trombone are all top-notch. In fact, I’d say they give The Congregation a run for the money as far as best local backers go. The trombone player especially impressed me. He was just going at it with reckless abandon, and I like that in a brass player. It seems like woodwinds always try to be a bit smoother, but trumpet and trombone players, the really good ones, attack the listener with an aural assault. The show honestly could have just been these guys and I would have thought it was fine. But there was so much more.
Johnston is a pro, and he has the toughest job in the band. As frontman on vocals and guitar, he’s the de facto leader. That means everyone is looking at him, and in that position you have to show a lot of restraint. He’s a talented guitar player, but he never attempted to be flashy, keeping even his short solos perfectly in step with the song. When he came out on stage dressed up like a Justin Timberlake look-a-like, I was a bit befuddled. That went away once he started singing (maybe everyone who sings like that gets one of those hats). He’s got a soft, somewhat high singing voice that he uses to the fullest effect when he’s getting funky.
To counter Johnston’s sweet vocals, Dance Floor Plans give us Tina Howell, whose huge pipes can shake the roof at any venue. If James is the heart, Tina is most definitely the soul. With a voice like hers, you’d think the band would use it more often, but a lot of the time she was singing with her voice just floating above the music. When they got to their final song, “Already Mine,” she broke free of the shackles and really let it all out. If it had been like that the whole time, I might have considered the show damn near perfect.
That said, it was still a heck of a fun time. Ending the weekend with a rhythm and blues band of high quality after two rock shows in a row was a great refresher, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to catch the very first performance of this group. If you missed out I wouldn’t worry too much. It seems that demand will bring them back out sooner than later. For now, go check out the two songs that are streaming on their Soundcloud page and boogey in your home or office.