Last Saturday may have been the perfect day. Perfect weather, the perfect vibe, the perfect bands, and the perfect festival. Nothing feels better than being surrounded by all of your closest friends and having all of your favorite bands playing together in a special one-day event. The Funkyard Festival took months of planning, but a simple dream became a reality thanks to the hard work of Vynyl talent buyer Mark Lord and So-Cal’s funkiest promoter, music lover and MC, Gina Figliuolo. There were two stages with rotating music all day long. Food and beer was reasonably priced, security and staff were helpful and very laid back, and you could stop by and shop at many cool vendor tables around the four-acre land. This festival was also without the typical problems of many festivals like long bathroom lines or parking hassles. For a first-time event, I was pretty blown away by how smoothly everything went. Not to mention plenty of space to lay down a blanket and relax or dance like no one's watching.
The fun started at noon with Portland, Oregon’s own Porterhouse on the second stage. They are a young quartet composed of drums, bass, sax, and keys and show promise of becoming major contenders in the funk scene. This was their first ever visit to the So-Cal area and they were psyched to be playing for us. Their sound learned more towards the funky retro-70’s jamming of the Greyboy Allstars.
Porterhouse | Photo by Gary Bell
The first act on the main stage was Soulive, who were surprisingly energetic after a late jam fest the previous night at Temple Bar in Santa Monica. This band is the real deal, folks. Hammond organ, guitar and drums creating a sound so huge for a trio, you won't believe what you are hearing. Eric Krasno is quickly on his way to becoming a guitar legend. The lawn became boogie central during their cover of the Isley Brothers classic "Its Your Thing" and their tribute to Cannonball Adderly called "Cannonball." I was also very impressed with the contributions of "fourth member," saxophonist Sam Kinninger, who sat in with the band for the majority of the show.
Soulive | Photo by Gary Bell
Back on the side stage, LA's own Greyhounds, were back after months of hard touring on the road playing to a happy hometown crowd. Their cover of Jimmy Smith’s "Root Down" was fantastic and they have improved immensely since the last time I saw them. Merl Saunders was next on the main stage and for some reason, his set just fell flat for me. I know he is a legend, but his new material was shaky at best and the sound mix was painful to listen to. Merl’s cover of Phish’s “Julius” was hardly recognizable and took on a harder metal edge opposed to a funky gospel feeling. I still have complete respect for Merl Saunders and love listening to his playing with Jerry Garcia’s side-projects from the 70’s, but Saturday was just not a good day for him or his band.
Greyhounds | Photo by Gary Bell
Robert Walter's 20th Congress was definitely one of the highlights of the day, mixing old Greyboy Allstars material with new super-funky jamming from their latest Money Shot release. Their encore of Led Zeppelin’s "Good Times, Bad Times" was worth the price of admission alone and could be heard all the way across the field by the side stage.
Robert Walter | Photo by Gary Bell
Next it was the biggest audience yet for LA’s funk heroes Particle on the side stage and the boys did not disappoint, opening up with the Herbie Hancock-funk of "Shoe Goo" which segued into the 20 minute techno-funk jam fest of "Roads a Breeze." Midway through "Roads," former Karl Denson's Tiny Universe trumpet player and Giant People founder Carlos Washington jumped on stage to the band’s surprise and added some spacey textures to Particle’s already complex groove. He also remained on stage for "Golden Gator" which slowly faded out as they took their hour break between Robert Walter and Vinyl.
Particle | Photo by Gary Bell
Vinyl was next on the main stage and played a solid set of Latin groove mixed with island-sounding funky rhythms. They are a fun 8-piece band from the Bay Area who never fail to get people off their feet and dance. After Vinyl finished, Particle quickly faded back into "Golden Gator" from the previous set and that may have been the prettiest jam I have seen them do yet. "Kneeknocker" was next and the porno-funk jamming was jaw dropping to say the least, with some crazy trumpet playing again from Carlos Washington. Some people felt that Carlos Washington overstayed his welcome and wasn't a very good guest, while others felt he added even more energy to Particle's two mini-sets. With or without Carlos, Particle proved that they are taking the music to a higher level than ever before and the future looks very bright for this band. This weekend they open up for Galactic in Las Vegas. Way to go guys!!
Vinyl | Photo by Gary Bell
Everyone was thrilled for the So-Cal return of Steve Kimock Band. After two mind-melting shows in San Diego and Santa Barbara, SKB were ready to finish the So-Cal run in style with a blistering 2 hour headlining spot at the Funkyard. SKB started during the breathtaking sunset and opened with the appropriate "Five Before Funk." During this jam, Steve Kimock proved what a versatile guitar player he is and it was also a great tune to get the audience involved with "Wooos" between Bobby Vega-led funk breaks. Next was Kimock's lap-slide guitar masterpiece "Why Cant We All Just Samba" and I turned around to see many teary eyes in the crowd. If there is one song that makes me think of Jerry Garcia, this is it. Other highlights included the calypso-beat of "A New Africa" and the tasty segue of "Poonk" into the Meters' "Cissy Strut" back into "Poonk." I was absolutely captivated by the drumming of former Santana drummer Rodney Holmes throughout the entire show. Not only can he change tempos without a single wasted motion, but he can drive Steve Kimock to rock out on guitar or he can sit back and play the best improvisational jazz rhythms I have ever heard. He almost acts as conductor while Kimock plays the delicate and introspective notes. Mitch Stein is also a perfect rhythm and occasional lead guitarist and he blends with Kimock perfectly. This by far the best band I have seen Steve Kimock with yet and please do yourself a favor and see this band when they come to your town. What a day!
Steve Kimock | Photo from Setlist.com
Special thanks to everyone who showed up and respected the venue and staff. Trash was minimal and hopefully we will be able to do it again soon. Keep your eyes open for more Funkyard Presents events in the near future!
JamBase So-Cal Correspondent
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[Published on: 5/23/01]