Music note: A touchdown boogie with The New Congress

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The Minnesota Vikings dropped Aug. 23rd’s preseason game against The Pittsburgh Steelers by a narrow 12-10 score. The pregame show on the Metrodome plaza, though, was a hands-down hit starring Twin Cities R&B soul-stirrers the New Congress.

Steph Devine gets up

Over the past few years, Steph Devine has established herself as an emerging presence of consequence on the local music scene. She is manager for The New Congress, books nationally-lauded hip-hopper Desdamona for the Midwest market, and works and sings for jam-band juggernaut Down Lo. On top of which, Steph Devine sang on TNC’s Everybody Gets Up! (“Make You Move”—L.A. Music Awards R&B/Soul Single of the Year, 2006) and sits in on this fall’s follow-up Woman Is God. She also backs the boys up at gigs, appears onstage with Down Lo, and has performed with R&B siren Erica West.

In a natural step forward, Steph Devine is now starting to make her mark as a solo artist. In a fitting showcase, she’s singing at She Rock: The Festival of Sisters, a two-night event (September 19th and 20th) at Pi Bar, 2532 25th St. in South Minneapolis. She Rock is about empowering women in the music industry. The purpose of the festival is to raise money for workshops on business, promotion, and performance. With sufficient support, this event could prevail as a gathering on the order of the Twin Cities’ internationally vaunted B-Girl Be Summit. It’s an event that fits Steph Devine like the proverbial glove.

Watch the horizon for this lady. Smart money says she will be there.

TNC upheld their longstanding reputation as a band as strong in action as they are in the studio—sometimes stronger. From their debut album Everybody Gets Up!, the Minnesota Music Award and L.A. Music Award winners busted cold-killer renditions of sweet-funk jams “Can’t Be Me” and “Only Human” and rock ballad “Under the Eyes of the Yellow Sun,” treating the crowd to a bring-the-house-down extended ending on “Only Human.” Among cuts unveiled from the forthcoming Woman Is God was “Save Myself,” R&B songwriting sweet to the bone.

Over the past year and a half, TNC have undergone personnel changes and hosted such superstar subs as Mint Condition bassist Ricky Kinchen and drumming legend Michael Bland. On this occasion, they reunited the original lineup: Mario Dawson (drums) and Justin “J-Biz” Blair rejoining Aaron “Orange AC” Cosgrove (vocals, guitar), Russ King (keys) and DJ Dudley D (turntables). They burned. In fact, you’d never know Dawson and Blair had ever been gone, tight as they locked down the pocket. Mario Dawson was finesse personified, gracing the skins with taste. “J-Biz” tripped monstrous, all-but-impossibly-funkified riffs. Also on hand were backup vocalists A. J. Eskridge and Steph Devine (who also manages TNC).

The performance was another choice outing by The New Congress, and provided a sneak preview of what’s yet to come from this premier powerhouse. Look forward to Woman Is God. Powerful as such Everybody Gets Up! highlights as “Sex In The Light Years” and “What a Life” were, get ready for still more impressive offerings like “Save Myself” and the smoldering anthem “1,000 Degrees.” That song, by the way, showed up in an early version on Pachyderm Studio’s compilation So Large We Ran Out of Room, and is one of The New Congress’s most blistering, get-on-the-dance-floor-and-heave-your-hips club favorites, along with their incredible rendition of the timeless Rolling Stones classic “Miss You.”

If you didn’t make it to the Metrodome, don’t sweat it: The New Congress play Thursday evenings at Bunker’s.

Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the Daily Planet.