Sharon Jones' pre-show ritual has both virtue and vice.
The vice is really more functional than anything: a few sips of whiskey, no ice, to warm up the vocal cords. Before she goes on stage, Jones also pauses for a moment to pray.
What follows is a great sight in contemporary music: a wildly passionate, nonstop funk and soul get-down. With her airtight, sharply dressed backing band, the Dap-Kings, Jones burns up the festival circuit with performances that hold little back.
"You see that energy, you see that drive, you see us steppin', you see me running across the stage acting like a maniac," Jones said during an interview in her trailer shortly before the band's performance Saturday at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival.
Jones, 52, has been called "the female James Brown." She was raised in Brown's hometown of Augusta, Ga., where she idolized him. On her path to the Dap-Kings, she was frequently rejected by record labels more interested in looks than substance. One of many odd jobs she held for a time was as a prison guard at Riker's Island.
An audition for backup singers led to wiser ears hearing that Jones deserved to be front and center. She worked for several years in Desco Super Soul Revue, and in 2001 formed Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, who have since released three albums, including "100 Days, 100 Nights" last fall.
The band has forged a soul revival with '60s sounds of pulsating horn sections, funky guitar and tambourine-accented back beats. Some have credited Amy Winehouse for the movement, but Winehouse's success was built on the Dap-Kings; they backed her up in the studio and have toured behind her.
Jones also raised her own profile by playing a juke joint singer in Denzel Washington's 2007 film "The Great Debaters."
"I'm watching it and it's all happening," Jones said. "More people are noticing me, like, 'Oh my God, I just heard you for the first time!'"
Mavis Staples has called Jones "a ball of fire" _ and it's easy to see why in her performance. Shows always begin with just the Dap-Kings playing, followed by a lengthy James Brown-style introduction for Jones.
"I wear this dress so I can shake it," Jones told the Bonnaroo crowd, calling it her "Tina Turner dress".
Jones and the Dap-Kings, who already played Coachella to warm reviews earlier this year, will play most major festivals this summer, including Lollapalooza, the Virgin Mobile Festival and Austin City Limits.
She enjoys the festivals, but conditions aren't always ideal.
"What I like about it is all new audiences," said Jones. "But once I get dressed, put my heels on, I don't want to go to the port-a-toilet. ... I am adjusting."
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