Deep Fried Funk, Napier NZ, 2022

Deep Fried Funk

9th November 2022
Paisley Stage, Napier, New Zealand.

Review by Rosheen Fitzgerald. Feature photograph by Kevin Bridle.

Soul is a double edged sword, one side is sex, the other revolution. – Jimmy Rabbitte, the Commitments

How much more true must these immortal words be of funk, which is more or less soul on steroids. There’s a lingering tinge of sex and revolution in the muggy Paisley Stage air on Friday night, an electric zing of anticipation as those in the know gather to witness the birth of something new.

A supergroup of sorts, Deep Fried Funk is the latest collaboration of a crew of Hawke’s Bay’s most beloved and hard working musicians. Most have come together on previous projects in twos and threes but here they take to the stage in their debut as a unit.

Jess Atkin leads from the front with powerhouse vocals and ebullient stage presence, mesmerising the audience and guiding the band with expressive gestures. She brings with her a portion of previous bands Blvd Nights and the Urban Cats expertly blended with fresh faces.

On bass Matiu Whiting lets his hair down, sinking deep into the groove. He’s known not only for Atkin’s other bands but his own family affair, Lady and the Tramps.

We all know Matt Mear from just about everywhere, most iconically Hawke’s Bay legends The Tropical Downbeat Orchestra. His exuberant horns bring something of a Tropic’s flavour to this beautifully rounded musical offering.

On saxophone, the hugely talented Ella Polczyk sets the stage alight with joyful noise and effervescent presence. Since bursting onto the scene with a string of international accolades at her back she’s been popping up in all the good places – Soul Choir, Nie!, Foxglove and Suzy Blue to name but a few.

Holding down the melody with funky chord progressions and slick licks is Cam Burns. Former frontman of experimental blues rock duo, MOSS, his solo looping sound is renowned across the Bay. There’s a reason he’s been chosen to play with some of our local greats.

On drums, Raw Collective’s Pauly Lowe smashes out a heart thumping, loin girding beat, keeping the syncopation funky and feet stomping on the dance floor.

This crowd has come to dance and they will not be disappointed. From the second number the obligatory drunkest girl at the work do, bless her, starts it off with a rhythmic sway that gets us all to our feet. The dance floor is popping off, the crowd surfing each hill and trough as though they were born for this, shaking their collective bodies loose of their souls in the service of deep fried funk.

Like good sex, this band coyly takes your hand, guiding us through the darker recesses of funk’s extensive back catalogue. With any good covers band, the magic is as much in the song selection as the delivery and these guys have got it down, tapped into an eclectic mix that combines classics from the likes of Ike and Tina, Gil Scott-Heron and Bill Withers with more modern offerings from the Quantic Soul Orchestra, Brooklyn Funk Essentials and the RH Factor with the unmistakable influence of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings throughout.

As wide and varied as is the genre from which they take inspiration, the sound is all their own. Akin nominally commands the bands but this is clearly a grassroots act, each player willing and wanting to play their part with joy and aplomb. Testimony to the talent each individual artist shows for collaboration, this is a musical communion that leaves no man behind. Make no mistake. Deep Fried Funk are here to stay, playing good loving music that may just spark a revolution.

Were you there at Paisley Stage for this old school funk gig? Or have you seen Deep Fried Funk perform live somewhere else before? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Setlist:
  1. Still Got a Way to Fall
  2. How Do I Let a Good Man Down
  3. This Land is Your Land (Woody Guthrie)
  4. Inspiration Information
  5. Game of Love
  6. Turn this Around/Come to Mama
  7. Home is Where the Hatred Is
  8. Pushin’ On
  9. I’m Just a Prisoner (Of Your Good Lovin’)
  10. Use Me
  11. Hold It Down
  12. 100 Days, 100 Nights
  13. Forget Regret
  14. Too Much
  15. End of the Road
  16. Light My Fire [encore]
  17. I’d Rather Be an Old Man’s Sweetheart (Than A Young Man’s Fool) [encore]

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