The Scene – Funk Nugget’s Annual Fourth of July Bash at The Ocean Mist

DSCN0954Finally we got a break from the rain, the Fourth of July was the first fully dry day I can remember in months. Waking up early I was motivated and called a few people that had mentioned interest in heading the the beach if the day was nice, but alas, no one answered, I couldn’t even rouse my brother from his slumber to tag along so I set off to the coast by myself. It was quite windy down at the shore, and with all the storms as of late, quite a bit of seaweed floating in the tide. I relaxed with my iced coffee and book an just enjoyed the air for a while. I took a stroll and after a couple of hours, I’d had my fair share of fresh air and packed up to head back north for a family and friends BBQ. There was plenty of sangria and smoked pulled pork to go around. Delicious as it was, I limited my sangria consumption to two glasses, and stuck mainly to filling my belly before heading back south to The Ocean Mist, for Funk Nugget’s CD release party.

Funk Nugget has been playing these parts for years for the better part of a decade. Formed at URI in 1999, this funk rock jam band has earned a reputation as great performers through their energetic live shows. Since the founding, the members have gone their separate ways, some live in different states, and even have other musical projects, but still get together annually for their Freedom Funk Dance Party every July 4th at the Ocean Mist. This year was special, after their parting a few years ago, they have been assembling in dark studios, in the wee hours of the morn to record their first studio album “Biscuit City,” their highly anticipated first album. Tonight’s lineup consisted of Zach Ladin on lead vocals and guitar, Low B on bass, Brett Boardman on Drums and Jason Dollard on keys. Laying out a strong groove to start the night, they opened with “Daisy,” the first track from “Biscuit City:”
07.04.09 Funk Nugget performing “Daisy”

Low B thumped on the bass making my ass shake, Zach strummed out a funky riff while working the wah peddle, before Jason started in on his new see through B3 while Brett provided the back beat and some well placed fills. Zach sang with feeling and conviction, rocking an infectious smile even while delivering verses to a heartfelt breakup song. They opened back up into a funky jam and another groovy fan wanted to get a closeup view of Zach, or so I thought. Once I realized he was trying to snap stills I let him know I was trying to video clip it, and grabbed the camera, thus resulting in a splice mid groove. No harm no foul. After refraining the first verse again they broke into a jam aimed at getting to room shaking, before winding it down. Low B took a quick second to mention some recent media attention they’ve received before changing pace and breaking into the second song from the album, “Marty:”
07.04.09 Funk Nugget performing “Marty”

Starting out with a bit of country blues flavor, Zach started in with his narrative of their mousy co-habitant and his unfortunate demise. The simple sing-along lyrics coupled with the intense jams and musical scoring made the captivated crowd erupt in dance and verse. Funk Nugget next chose a classic rock standard at this point, and broke into a funky dance version of “Mustang Sally,” by Mack Rice:
07.04.09 Funk Nugget performing “Mustang Sally”

Zach made it their own with his delicate yet gritty vocals. Low B stood, eyes closed, statuesque in front of his stack, absorbing the groove he was laying up and down the neck. Jason took to tickling his new see through B3. Hammond’s are by far my favorite sounding ebony and ivory instrument, probably hearkening back to first hearing this sound on Beatles tracks played by Billie Preston. Brett kept everyone in time tapping out the back beat. As they were winding down the classic I realized there were three things missing so far in my night, beer, nicotine and conversation. I put away my camera and made my way to the bar for some hoppy refreshment, and made my way to the back deck as Funk Nugget broke into another track from their debut studio album “Timbuktu.”

Funk Nugget

Funk Nugget

During the dance party inside I had noticed a few of the gentleman from The Attic and started my conversational talents that my poor friends abhor. Being mostly Irish, I’m blessed with the gift of gab, astoundingly so for a recovering introvert. I thanked Tom and Joel for the past few shows I’d seen and thoroughly enjoyed, discussing a bit of the local scene and their fan base. Jazzy sounds wafted through the Ocean Mist and out the back, I found myself swaying and bopping to the song as I spoke. Jordan moseyed around the corner and I struck up more conversation as Funk Nugget broke into a great cover of Phish’s “Momma Dance.” Jordan and I talked a bit of The Attic’s plans and what they may have coming up, after a bit I asked if he had seen Funk Nugget before. As his eyes lit up, an excited tone filled his voice as he shared a great memory. “I’ve definitely seen them before, they were actually playing at URI the day I moved in, and were the first live show I saw in Rhode Island.” Being two weeks ago, that’s less a quote, and more a paraphrase, but you get the drift. I headed back into the bar and made my way down front to take a clip of their next song “Torpe:”
07.04.09 Funk Nugget performing “Torpe”

Certainly one of their slower numbers with a hint of reggae it had the audience swaying and singing along. Judging by the audience participation, its easy to guess this is one of their long standing live favorites. Zach promised they’d play all night, and play they did. Next they played “Bright Brown,” a bit of a departure from the funk jams they had been playing all night:
07.04.09 Funk Nugget performing “Bright Brown”

Starting out the song had a raving dance feel, the house lights and crowd responded appropriately. Jason and Brett provided backing and harmonizing vocals on the refrains. Low B thumped out a busy bass line while Zach kept the rhythm going fast strumming frantically. Halfway through the song they changed up timing and gave it a bit of a reggae feel, before opening it back up musically. They jammed out a funky groove while Jason used some interesting effects on his keys. They kept up the raving dance party theme for the next song, “Everything in its Right Place:”
07.04.09 Funk Nugget “Everything In its Right Place”

Inviting Chris Dollard to join them on stage they were afforded two keyboardists for the song, at one point Jason reached into a box of tricks and pulled out glow necklaces and tossed a multitude to the crowd, like tiny flux capacitors they electrified the audience further. Early lyrics in the song were provided by a tracked female voice, who I can only assume was Amber Bettez, as she couldn’t be in attendance this evening. Towards the end of this epic number I began to get the annoying battery light on my camera, and chose to swap batteries next song. Switching back to a reggae funk number they played a cute narrative about a “Slug” next. The chorus was meant to grab a live crowds’ attention, “Hey, hey everyone, the slug has just begun” and it certainly prompted some singing and clapping along. Once everyone was paying attention, they switched up the groove and Low B broke into a heavy and funky bass line, shaking every hip in the room. Choosing a classic number, and the one that may well have given way to the band’s name, they played “Funky Nugs:”
07.04.09 Funk Nugget performing “Funky Nugs”

The Most Beautiful of Nights

The Most Beautiful of Nights

A funky slow jam, Zach sang it in the first person, to a lady he’s trying to take home from the bar, offering to top off the night right, by taking her home, and smoking some funky nugs. After the first few verses they made room on stage for a special guest MC, 90SeVAN of Broken Ground, for a verse. He released verbal smoke into the crowd, stoning and entrancing them all before smoothly exiting the stage from whence he came. I decided to mingle a bit and refill my beer as my arm was getting damn tired holding my little camera. I roamed the Ocean Mist saying hello to some more familiar faces I came across. Skipped out back to the deck and took in the lovely scenery as I listened to the waves lap against the shore mix gently with the funk sounds emanating from inside. Caught up with my cousin over a cigarette and got distracted in conversation for quite a bit. Returning to the dance floor I caught the tail end of another up beat dancey number before Funk Nugget broke into one Zach proclaimed he loved to play, “Wand:”
07.04.09 Funk Nugget performing “Wand”

It started gently and built up steam as the song went on, reminding me of a Phish song, both musically and the lyrical story. The crowd had been making innovative uses out of the glow necklaces they were afforded, since their introduction to the audience, fans were playing a dance party version of Ring Toss with Zach’s guitar. During “Wand” they got even more adventurous and chained many together, forming glowing jump ropes for some impromptu double dutch. At the conclusion of “Wand” they began to break into a chain of cover songs to round out the night, starting with a jammed out funky version of “Stayin’ Alive:”
07.04.09 Funk Nugget performing “Stayin’ Alive”

I can’t particularly claim to be a fan of this song, but with the added funk flavor I found myself enjoying it a bit more than the Bee Gee’s version with which I was familiar. In this hippie’s humble opinion, its always good measure to extend the musical interludes, and jam out, the crowd certainly loved it and even began to sing along at parts. The next logical cover, having been only a week since the King of Pop’s untimely death, Funk Nugget broke into the first of many versions of Michael Jackson songs I started to hear while out on the town, “Billie Jean:”
07.04.09 Funk Nugget performing “Billie Jean”

Brett started in with the familiar drum beat as they introduced the song, before Low B started in on the bass line that had everybody nostalgic. Again they played a good respectful rendition while lending a stronger funk style, branding it their own. Jason was laying on the keys while Chris had joined them back on stage to lend maraca and tambourine. At the conclusion of this electrifying cover they started in on “Lets Get it On” by Marvin Gaye:
07.04.09 Funk Nugget performing “Lets Get It On”

Zach unique vocal styling certainly did the song justice, while Funk Nugget added their own twists to the classic lust ballad. Couples began to slow dance and make out, this song always seems to generate the same Pavlovian response in most crowds, and just made me wish I’d dragged Nicole with me. The band seemed surprised when they had a few minutes left in their set, and conferred with each other before deciding to break into a quick version of “Wet:”
07.04.09 Funk Nugget performing “Wet”

Brett took over for lead vocals on the first verse of his own penning before Zach lent his vocal style to the second verse. After the vocals were sang, they began to break into a trippy dancey jam to round out the night. It was a fantastic show, and I can’t wait till I get the chance to see them again!

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