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BEST OLD BAND Minneapolis 2004 - Westside

Named for the St. Paul neighborhood that gave us Augie Garcia and his band, Minnesota's first rock 'n' rollers, Westside is a similarly integrated group of Latino and black musicians, anchored in the muscular but understated beat of drummer and co-founder Junior. They are, in other words, the embodiment of the sexy cosmopolitanism espoused by a nephew of one of Garcia's sidemen, Prince, whose music Westside knows backward and forward. Their unpretentious funk reaches back still further, though, into the horn-fortified R&B that once formed the backbone of live local rock. And the musicians aren't above being a cover band, which might be why chasing fame beyond local autograph seekers never seems to have occurred to them. Good entertainment was their reason for being. Formed in 1980, the group quickly became a live staple east of the river, and by the time the Rockin' East Side closed in 1999 (along with its adjoining strip club, the Payne Reliever), Westside had amassed a large and well-dressed audience accustomed to leaving shows soaked in dance sweat. The core members relocated to Massachusetts for a while, but returned this winter to reform as a house band at Arnellia's, the cozy St. Paul soul food discotheque. On Fridays and Saturdays, the band is as likely to impersonate Shaggy's version of "Angel of the Morning" as they are to segue from that song into the nearly identical riff of Steve Miller's "The Joker," with plenty of good patter, backing vocals, and chops galore to make you feel stingy for not dancing rather than cheap for giving in.

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