Tablet Life & Arts

Concert review: 20% Cooler at Fred’s Texas Cafe

For this past Saturday’s live-music fix, I found myself at Fred’s Texas Cafe in Fort Worth’s West 7th district, to catch Paul Andrade’s band, 20% Cooler.

When I got there, the enclosed patio was packed, and the five-piece band was already in full swing. Andrade — also known as Stepchild of Soul — was ripping through a cover of What’s Going On (Marvin Gaye), followed by Use Me (Bill Withers) and Pusherman (Curtis Mayfield). Andrade has an emphatic, soulful voice — when he sings, you really feel it. It takes a lot to impress me with this kind of music, but he had me from the moment I walked in.

We got an eclectic mix of soul and funk, with Smokey Robinson’s Tears of a Clown, Otis Redding’s (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay and the Isley Brothers’ It’s Your Thing.

I spent half my time waiting for a table to open up while I listened. Fred’s is always packed on a weekend, and you have to be ready to pounce once something opens up. I wound up sharing a table up front with a bunch of friendly strangers. I just about had to trip a server to get his attention, but finally got to put in an order for chicken-fried steak.

The waiter and I reminisced about the old days, when Fred’s didn’t take credit cards (he said he worked there back then). Back in those days, they would drop a rubber rat on you from up in the ceiling, and Fred’s would burn down a couple of times a week — only to be rebuilt with the same bass-boat metal-flake booths. These days there are no rats, you have to pre-pay for your meal on the patio, and the place hasn’t had so much as a grease fire in years.

I guess you can’t go home again.

Next, we got to hear Born Under a Bad Sign (Albert King), Let’s Stay Together (Al Green), Tell Me Something Good (Rufus) and even Purple Rain (Prince, or whatever he’s calling himself these days).

The band sounded a little rough around the edges at times. The rhythm section was tight, and bassist Chuck Brown of Telegraph Canyon fame was locked in all night — pure perfection. The guitar work by Mark Smith was excellent, but a tad heavy on effects. The chorus effect Smith used was overkill, and often made him sound off-pitch when he wasn’t.

Still, about half the people in the place were on their feet dancing. Nobody cared about the rough spots. They were feeling the groove and loving it, and I was too.

Jungle Boogie (Kool & the Gang) suffered from the lack of a full horn section, but Brick House (Commodores) didn’t. The group also did Superstition (Stevie Wonder), Peg (Steely Dan), Tighten Up (Archie Bell & the Drells) and even Lonely Teardrops (Jackie Wilson).

I think my favorite part of the night was 25 or 6 to 4 (Chicago). When I heard that intro, I was certain they could never pull it off with just a sax. I was wrong; they nailed it. Anyone who’s ever had writer’s block can feel that song to the core.

The band also did Sly and the Family Stone’s I Want to Take You Higher, Sam & Dave’s I Thank You and James Brown’s I Got You (I Feel Good).

My second favorite number of the night was Overkill (Colin Hay). There’s something about that song, and Andrade really did it justice.

There were other great moments as well: Ain’t Too Proud to Beg (the Temptations) and Fire (Ohio Players). When the band finished its set, the crowd was indignant and wanted to know when the guys were going to get back on stage.

While this band has a few rough patches, the players know how to work a crowd, and the crowd loved them for it. Eventually, they plan to do originals, and I can’t wait to hear what they come up with. If you love Motown, funk and old soul, you don’t want to miss 20% Cooler.


Saturday, Oct. 11

Fred’s Texas Cafe

915 Currie St., Fort Worth

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