Get down & dirty with the Dirty Boogaloo

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At the bottom of the uneven cement staircase, patrons squeezed through two shoddy wooden double-doors. Ten bucks got them past the bar and down the bench-lined corridor, lit mostly by gaudy gold-painted walls. But in the cavernous back room, their surroundings mattered little as the dulcet tones of the Dirty Boogaloo began to fill the performance space.

Seedy, questionable and shady are just some of the adjectives used to describe Lucky Cheng’s, the site of Sunday’s cross-dressing burlesque revue. But there seems to be a pattern in the types of venues frequented by the Dirty Boogaloo — Brooklyn’s leading lascivious lounge act — and that’s just the way they like it.

“Everything we do… is dirty,” said Daddy Snuggs, the Crown Heights resident who occasionally goes by the name Jarad Astin. “We just show up and bust it out every night. Our music is just about hanging out and having a good time.”

And the Dirty Boogaloo certainly delivers. For example, you might think that a five minute song whose only lyrics are “Hot barbecue!” would be boring. It really isn’t.

The seven-piece soul symphony doles out even doses of jazz, funk and Latin dance with a little bit of boogie and a touch of pop. The full ensemble checklist: one Hammond organ, one rhythm guitar, one full drum kit, several congas with American flag decals, and a small horn section consisting of one each a trombone, alto sax and baritone sax.

As their name suggests, the overall tone is unmistakably boogaloo — a mish-mash of African American, Cuban and Puerto Rican musical styles that originated in New York City in the 1950s. But the Dirty Boogaloo stirs in some ’20s era blues as well as some crowd-pleasing contemporary beats that compel the neck and shoulders to bounce.

Though the band puts on a hell of a show under the stage lights, their contagious cool and ubiquitous sarcasm is by no means an act. Back stage, the baritone sax player Skinny tried to explain the meaning of rock stardom.

“You would need to shoot heroin directly into your eye and wake up an inch away from a chicken nugget. That’s what music means to me,” he said.

The Dirty Boogaloo began about four years ago when Astin and Skinny moved to Brooklyn from Colorado. “We wanted to find some other musicians who could fill out the band and play some fun music on the spot. There’s no time to practice since we all got other jobs,” said Astin. “This is the only place we could find that.”

Astin started a label called CueZone Records and then assembled the rest of the band with musicians from all over the city. Eventually he expanded his solo lounge act to what can only be described as the full-on, mix-up, juke-joint Dirty.

Though this is a band so laid back, it’s horizontal, the Dirty Boogaloo hasn’t been sleeping on the job. Their self-titled debut album is almost set for release, and they can be found playing at a number of venues in Brooklyn and Manhattan in the coming weeks.

On July 3, they’ll be performing at Hank’s Saloon as a warm-up for their Fourth of July show at Tavern on Dean.

In classic Boogaloo fashion, Astin’s described the show on the fourth as “a chance to hang out, listen to some chill music and eat some barbecue.” Then he took a slow sip of his beverage and smiled from ear to ear.

The Dirty Boogaloo play Hank’s Saloon (Third and Atlantic avenues) on July 3 at 11 p.m. The cost is free. On July 4, they play Tavern on Dean (Dean and Underhill avenues) at 3 p.m. The cost is free.

For more information on the Dirty Boogaloo, go to www.myspace.com/dirtyboogaloo.

Updated 3:45 pm, October 19, 2011
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