Winehouse and Judge Roughneck at The Mercury Cafe in Denver, CO 0n 12/31/16

Winehouse – Counting down to the new year

The upstairs at The Mercury Cafe on New Year’s Eve is like being in a loft of an old barn in the middle of Denver with Christmas decorations and organic gluten free liquor.  Young partiers wearing masquerade masks mixed with couples with AARP memberships were ready for a New Year’s Eve celebration. It started behind schedule because the annual erotic poetry reading went long (thanks Viagra).

Singer Toddy Walters come on stage before her Amy Winehouse transformation to pay respect to all the artists lost in 2016.  She sang 100 Days, 100 Nights by Sharon Jones who passed away in November.  It seemed only fitting because Sharon Jones’ band The Dap Kings played on Amy Winehouse’s Grammy award winning Back to Black album.  At the end of her moving song, Walters introduced the opening band.

Judge Roughneck

Judge Roughneck has been playing with every ska and reggae band that has come through the Mile High City from UB40 to The Wailers since 1995. Singer Byron Shaw led the group through a fast paced set reminding everyone there is always time for a bongo solo.  David Dinsmore dressed in a suit and baseball cap (making the fashion statement work much better than the President Elect) provided additional vocals and trombone. Because you just can’t have enough horns, saxophone player Jon Hegel wearing his signature fez hat and Prince look alike/trumpet player Andre Mali completed the brass section. Their music made the audience dance from a hipster wearing a court jester hat made of fake eyeballs to an older couple in Mardi Gras masks.  One of the highlights was The English Beat’s Mirror in the Bathroom (Fishbone’s Angelo Moore sings on the band’s recent studio version on the song).

Winehouse – All Photos by the Rock and Roll Princess

Winehouse, recently voted as Westword’s top tribute band, took the stage. Toddy Walters embraced Amy Winehouse’s spirit with a beehive, tattoos, and English accent (some might be fake). The main members of the band are the horn section and singer from Judge Roughneck. The majority of the songs Just Friends, Love is a Losing Game, and of course Rehab paid a fitting tribute the late singer.  Not surprisingly, some of the songs were versions of the legendary ska band The Specials (all songs that Amy Winehouse covered).  Byron Shaw revved up the New Year’s Eve crowd by having them sing the chorus to The Specials’ Monkey Man, “Aye Aye Aye.”

Toddy Walters A.K.A. Winehouse

The band provided the perfect Motown feel for Amy Winehouse’s own He Can Only Hold Her with perfect backing vocals and matching choreography.

The encore was The Specials’ You’re Wondering Now with fitting lyrics to start the new year from a tribute band honoring an artist that left this life too soon.  “You’re wondering now/What to do/Now you know this is the end.”  Of course, it was sung in an upbeat ska way.

See you at the next show.  I will be the one waiting for the bongo solo.

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