My most recent Ambassador task took me to Foundry 616 in Harris Street at 8.30pm on a Wednesday night (I return to that last detail in a moment). I was there to listen to an up-and-coming band called Funk Engine: Nish Manjunath (tenor sax), Felix Lalanne (guitar), Siebe Pogson (bass) and Holly Conner (drums), who were joined by vocalist David Sharp for a few songs.
I have to admit I was doing this with some trepidation, my main worry being not knowing what to write, not having ever reviewed a funk band and not even really knowing what funk is, except what I had swatted up that afternoon, which was basically that:
- there are about 20 acknowledged varieties of funk
- my chances of distinguishing one variety from another were going to be slim
- the chances of my being able to tell if this band was doing the job properly were even slimmer
But as it was, Foundry 616 is a welcoming place and once I’d equipped myself with beer and food, found my way through the dim lighting to a free table and noticed that I wasn’t the only oldie in the audience, I was all set to be entertained with an hour of music with suitably bossy titles like “Get up!”, “Bring it down!” and “Do that stuff!”.
What’s more, I needn’t have worried about my ignorance of all the technical stuff, as this band was evidently doing its own thing (mixing funk with all sorts of other styles I needn’t go into) and was clearly doing it very well. In no time I was having a great time, appreciating the good humour, dress (a great pair of coloured trousers on show) and – last but not least – skill of these young players (and if I had to pick just one quality, it’s the way they succeeded in improvising amazingly elaborate solos over the stupendously bare materials of funk).
Half way through the set I couldn’t help comparing my sense of relaxation and well being with what goes on at the average ‘classical’ venue and how everything there conspires to make you tense and uncomfortable: glaring lights, stuffy dress code, no food or drink in the hall, intellectual distress (did Haydn influence Mozart, or was it the other way round?). And then people wonder why the new audiences aren’t flocking in.
Having said that, however, there are still some things that need to be sorted out even in the more laid-back, jazzy scene: and in particular I need to know why, when such an engaging group of musicians is playing in such a friendly venue, so few people should turn up for a midweek concert. What’s wrong with a Wednesday evening?
Funk Engine | 28 Oct 2015 | Foundry 616