Sunday, June 27, 2010

Victor Wooten Band, live Friday at the Port City Music Hall

The Victor Wooten Band show Friday night was unreal! Recently I have had friends expose me to jazz fusion greats like Mahavishnu Orchestra and Jean Luc Ponty, and I have watched those youtube videos always wondering what it would be like to be in the audience. I think I got a glimpse Friday night.

The Victor Wooten band is Victor on bass, Regi Wooten (older bro) on guitar, Steve “White Chocolate” Winegard on keys, and Derico Watson on drums. Their incredible blend of jazz funk fusion helped me to understand what the people in the audience of those older shows I watched on youtube experienced. The night was full of insane soloing, musical battles between members, and complicated, intricate musical climaxes involving the entire band. A song would start off with some structure, beginning as songs Victor fans may recognize. But they would quickly transcend into jazzy, but exuberantly playful and technical forays into unexpected territory. Some songs had much heavier bass and were infinitely funkier. Victor’s signature style can be picked out anywhere, but when you see him on his “solo” project you are better able to see him play the bass as if he as a person, encompassing all of himself and his powers of expression, were completely funneled through his instrument. At one point he teasingly almost told us the time signature to one of his songs, but refused in the end… however you can tell that these musicians are skilled masters of timing and unreal alterations in traditional music techniques. The music was filled with continual redirection as band members would just point to one another and all of a sudden a different person would take the lead and bring the music to an entirely different place. Steve’s outrageous key solos started off traditional, very classy jazz-esque, and then transported me to outer space with his technicality, and then back to Mexico with something very “mariachi” like. Sometimes, it made me feel like I was falling, but like in-a-dream falling… pure insanity! I have never before had the privilege to be exposed to such a free form jazzy funk escapade and I am thankful for the experience! As for Regi, I have seen some guitarists slap their instrument a little, something like when a bassist plays slap, but never ever before with the gusto and consistency as Regi Wooten. He was pulling sounds from his guitar that I didn’t even know existed. His style was almost chaotic, frenzied in some of his wilder, but wonderful solos. At one point he was flinging his arms wide and swooping them in every time he slapped it, another he and Victor battled back and forth; ever faster and more technical and more flamboyant, another he and Victor stood face to face playing eachother’s instruments so intensely that I could NOT believe my eyes, or ears! I hope you are getting the point here; MINDBLOWING would really be the key word. Yet I cannot stop without addressing Derico Watson’s intense drumming skills. I swear this man played a 15-20 minutes drum solo… at least 10 minutes of that with the entire place COMPLETELY blacked out, pitch freakin dark, with no light except tiny glowsticks attached to the very end of his sticks. This man’s sense of rhythm, of multiplicity, and timing was incredible. I could have listened to Derico Watson play the entire show solo, his drumming skills were so impressive and fulfilling. Victor made a point of mentioning that Derico only uses one foot pedal, calling him the “One Foot Wonder”.

The Victor Wooten Band played several Michael Jackson tunes (as apparently it was Jackson’s death day) and some references to other classic funk like “Rollercoaster of Love”. Victor also spoke extensively with us about his experience that morning waiting in line in NY for a new Iphone from 1 a.m. until 5a.m. His story was funny, but also refreshing with quotes like, “Now usually waiting in line for a cell phone for hours is against my nature. (many people laughed and one audience member yelled, “Nice phone though isn’t it?” Victor replied, “It’s a damn fine phone, yeah”) But everyone in the line, we all started telling stories and by the end of it all, we were all friends.” He also told of the floods in his hometown down south and while he had been lucky that his house has not been affected, many of his neighbor’s houses were and his camp had lost 3 buildings… all swept away. He spoke about community and coming together in crises… it was moving and really completed the experience for me. As did getting to take a picture of Regi Wooten with my friends Nate and Lisa, although I was too shy to get one myself.

All in all, this was a an incredible night full of banter, a chance to personally connect with musicians, and truly talented, mind blowing music. I really, really hope you were there.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

EarPhunk Funks It Up In St. Louis!

Hi, my name is Kim, and I am addicted to funk. EarPhunk played at the Broadway Oyster Bar in St. Louis, MO on Friday night, and they willingly fed this addiction! The show began around 10, and they didn’t waste any time by starting off soft, as I was grooving in my seat while finishing my dinner. The band consists of rhythm and lead guitar, bass, drums, and some funky ass keys! These guys are straight from New Orleans, ready to funk your day up.

Playing shows around the South and Midwest for the past few weeks, including the music festival Wakarusa down in Arkansas last weekend, this was their last stop before heading back to New Orleans, and they killed it! Their stage presence is great, their involuntary funk faces are priceless, and they feed off of each other's musical energy quite well. For a couple of songs they were joined by a trombone player, and it was a great addition. This kid was no older than 15, and he jammed right into the funk and groove with out missin' a beat. Keep it up kid!

EarPhunk has some excellently contrived originals. At first glimpse, I viewed them as just straight-forward funk, but they throw in some twists that make their music seemingly less predictable than original funk, and a bit more raw. There’s a captivating flow to their songs; they’ll pull you into a jam, break it down to ground you a bit, then gradually build it back up into an epic musical climax. A couple of those build-ups literally had me on my tip toes. I don’t understand how anyone was sitting down for this show.

The Oyster Bar's stage is outside, but still in somewhat of an enclosed area. Regardless, those walking by the bar could easily hear the Phunk, and many were stopping in their tracks to peer in and see what these guys could do. I’d say Earphunk has the ability to lure an audience in, and keep them stickin’ around.

While taking their music seriously (quite impressive ambition for such youngin’s!), they also seem very laid back at their shows, and want their audience to be having as much fun as they are. Spectators are encouraged to dance and even join into the rhythm section via cowbell, tambourines, and whatever else, putting on a hell of a show as well as creating a great vibe.

While chatting with bassist Michael Comeaux, he stated that a lot of their songs are about 90% improv, “I think I play a different bass line almost every time.” They have constructed choruses and songs that follow certain patterns, but sure as hell like to jam, their creative juices overflowing and infecting audiences. Jamming as much as they do, I expected more repetitive grooves that each player might feel more comfortable with. However, I felt that whoever was leading at the time would work to take the jam to new places, while the band comfortably and willingly followed suit. Quite a talented and musically fused group of young musicians!

My suggestions for the band: a consistent horn section, more bass slapping and drum solos, and a New England tour!

My suggestion for you and all your funky friends? Go check out EarPhunk! You can listen to some of their tunes on their website and/or Myspace page: or

Each beautiful photo was taken by Sarah Orschel!