“This is the type of music that never quite leaves your soul,” said The Company Man on stage while hosting night one of the BK Funk Fest, and the five acts that performed at the Paper Box last night also made sure it was the type of music that never quite makes you stop dancing, either. From the heavy classic rock-tinged grind of Jake Pinto and the YeahTones to the Prince-esque, horn-heavy groove machine that is Mokaad to the driving afrobeat rhythms of EMEFE, the lineup covered a number of bases for the admittedly wide-ranging and diffuse funk genre. For the true funk soldiers, this one had a bit of everything for the musicologists in all of us.
Kicking things off with some well-rehearsed, 9/8 off-beat rhythms, Jake Pinto’s trio hit on some metal grooves and applied it to a series of classic rock gems, moving from Hendrix’s “Fire” (with Pinto on the keytar and a tease of “Kashmir” to bring it to a close) before moving through “Manic Depression” and “Wild Thing,” even sprinkling in a dream sequence of “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” to break up the power they exuded. The Bailen Brothers hit next, introducing the first of many horn sections that would grace the stage, and bringing a type of up-tempo, major chord, firebrand rock and roll reminiscent of The Band’s Rock of Ages album. From the beginning of their set straight through to their bawdy rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” the seven-piece was having a hell of a time.
When Mokaad took the stage, they took the room by storm, led by flashy and engaging frontman Gabriel Garzón-Montano and a quartet of some of the finest, tightest horns around. They are one of those bands that can take a listener on a ride through all aspects of the funk, kicking it off with flashes of Sly, moving through the barely restrained punches of Prince, dropping down into heavier, slower, grimier Funkadelic, and finally reining it all back in with a 15-minute, James Brown-inspired jam directed wholly by Garzón-Montano and delivered with an exuberance that was matched only by the audience’s reaction.
But that was just the third out of five bands. Swift Technique took their stage show to the next level, with both horns dropping to the floor and dancing throughout the set. EMEFE’s Afrobeat rhythms — driven by their eleven-piece ensemble — also brought out a frenzied reaction from the crowd, while the sheer power of their horn section brought about perhaps the heaviest moments of the night. Bringing up Garzón-Montano also wasn’t a bad decision — the singer exudes energy and charisma, and spiced up EMEFE’s headlining slot nicely.
The biggest takeaway of the whole evening was pretty clear as the night went on — to get this many funk bands in one place just pushes everybody to perform their best in an attempt to out-do each other. Far from being a bad thing, that’s one of the main reasons why the music from the BK Funk Fest isn’t ever likely to leave the soul.