It was normally time to go to bed, but the Pimps of Joytime were just getting started. I dragged my tired body out of the camp chair at July's FloydFest and shuffled through the campground toward the infectious beat of a Latin rhythm.
No one was yawning near the stage. Around 4 in the morning, in fact, after a nearly three-hour set, the band returned for a 30-minute encore. But they weren't done. "If you have a drum, a conga, anything to bang on, come get down in front of the stage," beckoned lead singer Brian J before joining the crowd for a free-form percussion jam in the field. Then, just as the first light started to peek over the Virginia mountains, the band got back on stage. A few hundred people were going to be very tired all day long.
"That was so special," recalls Brian J, the band's founder. "The promoter was like, 'Listen, if you guys can play a long time that'd be great.' That's a license to really relax and have creative freedom to express ourselves."
The Pimps can't be pigeonholed into a genre -- it's all soulful, but one song might segue from an Afrobeat groove to an electronic club beat with sitar. It's all pretty damn funky, and it's impossible to hear it and sit still.
Brian J is joined by fellow Pimps Chauncey Yearwood on congas and Mayteana Morales on vocals, percussion and sampler. The mysteriously named Clark Dark holds down the pocket on bass, and the drummer is constantly fluctuating (they've had 16 in five years).
Brian J started the Pimps in 2004 as a solo project, building a studio in his Brooklyn house. "I started with no direction in mind and no concept," he explains. "It started to be this funky good time, and I went with that."
The band name sprung from an offhand comment by a friend. "It just seemed right," says Brian J. "It's audacious, a bold choice of words. And it sounds funky."
It wasn't until 2007's High Steppin' was in the works that Brian J put together the live band. Everyone appears on the forthcoming disc, Janxta Funk, due out this year. That record, and the band's relentless performances, may be enough to make Pimps of Joytime a household name.
The Pimps of Joytime 8 p.m. Sun., Feb. 20. $10 ($12 day of show). Thunderbird Café, 4023 Butler St., Lawrenceville. 412-682-0177 or www.thunderbirdcafe.net