This show, featuring local boys The Funky Butt Brass Band opening for NOLA favorites Earphunk, was held to commemorate The Gramophone’s fifth anniversary and they could not have picked better acts. The Gramophone has in its five years, become a crucial aspect of The Grove’s funky night life and the musical stylings of these two bands reflect the character of the neighborhood and St. Louis as a whole.
The Funky Butt Brass, as usual, brought enough funky action at a distance to make even the most humorless physicist boogie like an excitable quark. In fact, they are so good at doing what they do that I can almost begin to forgive them for their questionable fashion choices. Almost. They are one pair of sunglasses-on-the-back-of-the-head away from Guy Fieri-dom.
Their set list was just the right length, and followed an excellent arc with laid back grooves like “St. Louis Breakdown” counterpointed by more raucous numbers like “Do That Thang.” Their form was tight and I don’t think I heard a single missed note or dropped beat in the whole set.
Earphunk’s sound takes a different trajectory through the funk landscape. Lacking any horns they rely on blazing guitar licks backed up with bass lines that alternate between lumpy, legato grooves to tittering staccato thumb slapping string attacks and the familiar and reliable crunchiness of a Hammond B3. Both guitarists displayed exquisite skill but lead Paul Provosty worked finger-fracturing licks so quickly and easily that I almost didn’t notice the difficulty of what he was playing. Vocalist Mark Hempe made funky, but perhaps excessive, use of his talkbox but I can’t get tired of a talkbox. The one thing that inhibited my enjoyment of their set was the poor sound mix which left the keyboards buried underneath everything else and the vocals muffled and muddy.
Altogether, though, this was one of the most enjoyable shows I have attended in a long time,. The atmosphere at The Gramophone was electric and the crowd was great although an older couple sitting next to me did manage to catch a few Z’s during the show. I wish the good folks at The Gramophone many more years of bringing great music and nightlife to The Grove. And I encourage anyone who has the chance to see either of these two groups to do so.