Secret Monkey Weekend At Magnolia Music Cafe,Wake Forest NC
Imagine a band, a family band, where the singer and guitarist is the dad, and the bassist/backup singer is his 16 year old daughter, and the drummer/ other lead singer is his 11 and a half year old daughter. This imaginary band is real, is from Durham, NC, and they are called Secret Monkey Weekend. They are cute and funny and talented and they rock.
I’ve seen the band three or four times and always been charmed by them, but after a short hiatus over the winter, they are back and better than ever. Led by Dad Jefferson Hart, a veteran of many local NC bands, they play a number of his alt-country styled pop tunes. The bassist, Ella, is quite amazing on her instrument and sings great backup. She is a real strength of the band. The secret weapon of Secret Monkey, however, is the young Lila on the drums and vocals. She is a joy to watch, playing and singing with real intensity, almost looking angry as she concentrates. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Lila grunt during a cover of ZZ Top’s ‘Jesus Just Left Chicago,’ or her singing lead on The Stones’ ‘Happy.’
The band was augmented tonight by ‘Uncle’ Tim Smith on keyboards, a pleasant presence on stage and a fine, unshowy keyboardist that added greatly to the overall sound. Bassist Ella ground through a number of Chuck Berry style walking bass patterns with easy aplomb. She sang great backup but no lead vocals tonight (I’ve heard her sing Squeeze’s ‘Cool For Cats’ in the past...mind blowing!)
Jefferson was in good voice and played some tasteful lead guitar, especially on his black Fender Stratocaster. The original Secret Monkey songs included the pretty ‘Honey Num-Num,’ ‘Candy Station,’ and a great new song ‘Do The Secret Monkey,’ complete with band choreography. These songs are my absolute favorites. They also tackled ‘Funkytown,’ ‘Under My Thumb,’ and a joyous version of The Romantics ‘That’s What I Like About You.’ Imagine an 11 year old drummer knocking that one out!
Dad Jefferson payed a clever homage to past local NC bands, the band running through Peter Holsapple’s ‘Big Brown Eyes,’ Chris Stamey’s ‘Something Came Over Me,’ Arrogance’s ‘It Ain’t Cool To Be Cruel,’ Rick Rock’s magnificent ‘Buddah Buddah,’ and The Woods’ ‘Battleship Chains.’ This was a very clever tribute to the bands that came before and some of whose members Jefferson has played with. I was impressed. It’s good to see such a unique, fun band, and a band led by a man that understands his musical history. Secret Monkey Weekend is the best!