w/ Soul Town
Fri. July 18
1008 Ocean Blvd. Isle of Palms
Keeping with a new tradition, the summer season brings another big Uncle Mingo performance to the Windjammer stage on the Isle of Palms. The longtime local band formed 19 years ago and quickly rose to the top of a burgeoning Charleston music scene with a deeply funky style and high-energy stage show.
After a 10-year run, the band put on the brakes and the four members — guitarist/vocalist Scott "Mookie" Quattlebaum, vocalist/bassist Bryan "Mo" Moore, drummer Robert Thorn, and keyboardist/saxophonist Jason Moore — settled in to day jobs and family lives. But they never officially broke up.
Quattlebaum describes the current situation as an occasional thing in which they reconvene to play a few spring and summer gigs and record new material in his home studio.
"I really think it's a whole lot better," Jason Moore says of the band's current routine. "When you play live every night, it's seamless and you know what's coming next — but it's also easier to get more in a rut and almost on automatic, which isn't so good. Now that we've been away from it, I think we play a lot smarter now. Having Greg Walker on the drums is a big help. He's been playing non-stop for years."
Walker is best known in town for his extensive work with the Blue Dogs. When he started helping the band with some new recordings in 2006, the band decided to bring him on as the official drummer for various forthcoming gigs.
"Robert's a great drummer, but after all that time off, he wasn't able to keep playing and it was tough for him to jump back in," keyboardist Moore says of his former bandmate. "He's a great guy and doing really well, but it was a tough thing."
Uncle Mingo recorded a few indie albums and toured the East Coast through 1998. Some of their most popular and funkiest tunes were "Little Baby Brother," "Remember Me," "Sydney," and the heavy Chili Peppers-esque rock groove of "Super Stupid Things." One of the most enduring fan favorites may still be "Bottle of Moonlight."
A nasty scuffle on a tense tour in 1998 nearly brought things to a complete stop, but the core of the band reunited shortly after.
"We had this road manager who was a nightmare," remembers Jason. "Plus, Scott and Bryan were always going at it. Robert and I were like the lukewarm water [laughs at the Derek Smalls reference] and always trying to keep the peace. At one point, Scott got fed up.
"When we tried it without Scott, we had a couple of different guitar players, but live, we just never quite had the chemistry and fun that we normally did," he adds. "After we signed with Capricorn Records [to record the band's final album, Full Circle], Scott came back and things looked great. Then, Capricorn sold off most of the bands, we got dropped, and we basically split up and stopped playing."
Over the last 10 years, the Mingo action picked up, with "reunion" gigs at the Windjammer and at Party at the Point, among other venues.
This Friday, the quartet welcomes two special guests — saxophonist Mark Black (currently the lead singer and sax player with the East Coast Party Band, also of The Embers) and trumpet player Rusty Smith (a longtime hornsman with the Barbara Mandrell band and in-demand brass section arranger).
"It's more energized and more deeply groove-oriented," Moore says of the current live sound. "It's more relaxed and more focused on the vocals. We also have more horns in the songs, which are like a median down the highway between the guitars and keys. The horns actually help separate the instruments and add to the overall sound.
"You know, we're not going to go back on tour or try to do that thing again," he adds. "We want to do this for fun, make a great CD, be creative, and do what we do musically."