Sapphire Supper Club, Orlando • August 1, 1998

If any band in town deserves to be the next O-Town export, it’s that phat and phunky Kow. A night at the Sapphire Supper Club was reserved for an elaborate CD release party that included little black and white cow confetti. A Hammond C-3 organ the size of a humpback whale lay beached on one side of the narrow Sapphire stage. It was apparent that the boys meant business. The band took the stage for the first of three sets, with Anthony Cole leading off on saxophone. Drummer Dan Fadel kept a sparse backbeat going in a titillating stretch of restraint before the rest of the guys leapt in. Cole stopped blowing long enough to tell the crowd “I see too much dance floor.” The gap was rapidly closing by the time “Stuffs N Thangs” was brought out, a soft groove with a double-time snap. Cole switches to the mammoth C-3 on this tune and his warbly noodlings cast a serious spell. A chunky bass and guitar riff anchored “Smilin’,” a honeyed clothes-off funk number that hit the room in waves. This one stomps around in a foreign land next door to the kingdom of Sly and the Family Stone, an earth-shaking boogie that had the crowd on the dance floor swirling and sweating. Bassist Matt Lapham and guitarist Pat McCurdy gave this one some huge booty bait.

By this time, it was definitely SRO in da house as Kow plunged through their first set and took a short break before returning with a celebratory toast. There were some sweet vocal harmonies on “Good Ole Funky Music,” while Doug Bear, owner of the C-3, contributed a smoking solo on “Use Me,” which featured some nifty percussive pyrotechnics from Dan Fadel. Former member Brian Chodorcoff leapt into the fray to join the guys on the always engaging “Like A Train,” contributing a howling solo during the break of this Dead Head-esque tune. Those dancing bear vibes arise again during “Where the River Flow,” especially in the lead guitar work of Mike Fadel. Cole’s voice is a husky yowl that wraps itself around each sexy lyric and the man can also play anything. He switches to drums, Dan Fadel gets on guitar and they crank up a 60’s psychedelic rock number called “Voodoo.” The old school ’70s P-funk of yore gets a spectacular treatment with “Glide,” a slightly savage rave-up that featured an ass-smacking bass solo by Lapham — melodic and punchy all at once. After playfully loping through some Iron Maiden, the fusion explosion of “Dance On” found the band at its edgiest; Cole and Fadel sat side by side behind dual drum sets and the crowd freaked out. A funked-up, rattle trap, machine gun ske-daddle between the two. Then Dan leaps up and gets on the C-3. During “I’m The One,” the second set closer, a wild and breezy sax solo by Cole drifts over an insistent beat by Fadel. Butterfly fusion, squawking — a tasty midpoint break interrupts the chaos with a glistening moment of sweet purity. They’re fucking with us, Kow — they are.

Third set threatened to turn the evening into an illicit affair, hot and steamy and naked. Fadel skips a fancy backbeat under Cole’s stark sax wailings, “Just Give Me A Chance” and “All The Way” were given the king-sized treatment and the cherry on this particular cake was the nastily naughty “Pan TeeRee Mooval.” The little five-note hook on this song was sung out with drunken affection by the still-packed house. Raising glasses, butting asses, the Kow laid the funk thick and brown like molasses. Carrying on the legacy of the groove and mixing it up with a recklessness that borders on criminal.

Get ’em outta here. Somebody sign these maux-fauxs.

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