Earphunk, Catullus and Attic Tapes @ The Foundry.
Text and images by Ed Schick.
Philadelphia got a lot funkier Saturday night. No, tires weren’t burning under 95 again. Earphunk (pictured above) brought the funk with them from NOLA to The Foundry at the Fillmore. They were joined by local acts Attic Tapes and Catullus. I’m not a dancer and even my two left feet wanted to get busy.
First on the bill was Attic Tapes (fka Fishtown Beats). The room was still pretty empty when he took the stage. That didn’t seem to matter. I am admittedly not an expert on DJs but the sounds were nothing like I’ve ever heard from one. This was far from anything like you’d find at an EDM festival. The style was much smoother and laid back.
This, however, does not mean that the groove or the beats weren’t there. He was spinning this intriguing blend of Motown, hip hop, funk and even swing. He may have caught the small gathering by surprise with his unique blend of music as there was not much dancing in the beginning. However, as the set went on, people settled into his style, and more people arrived, the feet and booty shaking commenced. Towards the end of the set he was joined on stage by saxophonist Mike LaBombard. Mike added another layer to the grooves, using his sax to play along with and compliment the songs Attic Tapes was playing from his Apple. I didn’t hear a bad note and he matched the style of the music spinning quite professionally.
By this time, the venue had filled up more and most of the crowd that was there was shimmying and shaking to the duo. This was a different opener for what was essentially a rock show but it worked just fine by setting a tone and getting people moving. Again, I am not one who listens to DJs but Attic Tapes did a fine job.
Next up was local prog-funk band Catullus. More people started arriving to the intimate venue by now, some of whom were obviously familiar with them already.
Catullus continued to keep people moving and dancing. They ran through a set of about a half a dozen songs which showcased their individual talents well. By the time they settled into the song “Oh Well” early in the set, their influences were clearly visible. You could hear a mix of jazzy guitar, ELP tinged keyboards, and a rhythm section that held the groove and kept people dancing. Shortly after that song, they played “JellyBender.” This time it was the keyboards played by Justin Minnick that had that funky style backed by jazzy drums.
With each song, the crowd was becoming increasingly involved in and appreciative of the performance before them. Then it came time for the final song of the set, “Domino Days.” The band was at the top of their game when, once again, Mike LaBombard joined them onstage with his saxophone. I wasn’t sure at first if this was going to work, but it did. Mike and Catullus guitarist Andrew Meehan were trading licks like they had always played together. It wasn’t like a guitarist and a sax player. It sounded more like two guitarists trading short solos and fills.
The time for the end of the set came and it was a shame as it seemed like they were really just settling in and getting on a roll. Catullus is a band of talented capable players and musicians. I don’t know if it’s intentional or not but they wear their influences, which are too numerous to list, proudly on their sleeves. Unfortunately, that worked against them for me. There were several times when I thought to myself that I had heard some of this before. But, they are a relatively young as a band which works in their favor. They have time to find their own musical voice and I have no doubt that players with their ability will be able to do that.
After seeing videos of them on YouTube and now seeing them in person, I see that they have indeed grown as a band. I look forward to hearing and seeing them in the future to witness their growth. I have no doubt they are capable of growing. They did their job well though and continued to prep the crowd for the headliner.
Next up was Earphunk. Earphunk is comprised of Paul Provosty (lead guitar), Mark Hempe (guitar/vocals), Michael Matthews (drums), Michael Comeaux (bass), and Christian Galle (keyboards). They hail from New Orleans and it shows in the good time, party, upbeat vibe they exude. They are another band described as a prog-funk band. I would add jam band into that mix as well as much of their performance has that extended improvisational quality. But there is no doubt that they are heavy on the funk. You can also add a dash of heavy metal into the mixture for good measure, which on this particular night was on prominently displayed.
“Try” was the first song of the night. There was no doubt this was a funk band from the moment they started playing. There was no mistaking the influence of such classics by fellow New Orleans natives The Meters and their songs such as “Cissy Strut” and “Look-Ka Py Py” on this one. Just about everyone in attendance was dancing from the get go and spirits were high. Galle on keyboards played some of the funkiest organ I have ever heard. Later in the song, Provosty proves he is not merely an excellent funk rhythm guitarist, but a more than capable soloist in more than one genre. It was as if he channeled Eddie Hazel, and even a little Eddie Van Halen, to add a nice heavy blues/hard rock flavor to his solo. All the while Hempe, Matthews, and Comeaux held down the fort admirably showing they are a rhythm section to be reckoned with.
This was followed by the crowd pleaser “Saura,” which features a beautiful mix of a funky rhythm guitar section straight out of the mind of Nile Rodgers, a jazzy dual lead guitar melody in the verse and head banging riffing in the chorus. I don’t know how they mixed these styles so well in one song, but they pulled it off expertly.
A couple of songs later, they launch into another fan favorite in “Phine.” From the opening lyric spoken through a talk box into a synthesizer, it was apparent that this would be an 80s funk inspired tune and probably the closest to a true dance tune they have, or at least played. I was the only one not dancing by the time this song was under way. Hempe started mixing in the Phil Collins classic “In the Air Tonight” and tried to get the crowd to sing along. The response was maybe not what he had hoped for but I honestly think everyone just wanted to keep dancing. After this, they played a couple more songs before coming to the final song of the set.
Here’s where the set list threw a curveball. At least so I thought. They started playing “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath. I was just as surprised. Not only did they play it, they did an outstanding job! As a side note, I’ve been listening to and seeing Sabbath and Ozzy live since the 70s. I even went to New York to see them on this final tour months before they were to play in the Philly area.
Earphunk’s version was better than even Sabbath’s version this year. For one main reason. Drummer Michael Matthews. Black Sabbath is not touring with original drummer and founding member Bill Ward. The drummer they have does not have the jazz and the swing that Ward drips all over the Sabbath records. It probably sounds crazy to a lot of people but that element was essential to the early Sabbath sound. Matthews brought that swing back into Sabbath and I thank him, in fact I did after the show. So now you’re probably thinking “War Pigs” is the curveball. Nope. The curveball is not that they played it, but that they could play it and get people head banging to it and dancing harder than they have all night to it. At the same time no less.
I have absolutely never seen people dance at all at any Black Sabbath or Ozzy concert. So Earphunk pulled off what Sabbath never could with their own song. Amazing.
After a short break, they came back out for their encore. It was back to the funk with the song “Sweet Nasty”. Probably the funkiest song of the night much to the crowd’s delight. The night ended here with the band gladly talking to fans in the audience. Earphunk proved to be one of the finest funk bands going right now. I honestly don’t know how anyone can leave one of their concerts without a big smile on their face and feeling better than when they went in. This was the feel good concert of the year.