FunkFest's signature blend of musical collaborations blew into Toronto for a premier performance at the Phoenix. Getting the crowd worked up with everything from an upright bass to horns to keys, this event had it all.
Daniel Jovkovic, the festival organizer, welcomed all and shared his vision of reaching out to the people of Toronto through inspirational music. Through his organization, Empty Heart, Daniel is opening doors of conversation by delivering God's message via free CDs loaded with Christian music and uplifting inscriptions.
Tonight's impressive line up started with LMT Connection, a mÈlange of artists Leroy Emmanuel (guitar and lead vocals), John Irvine(bass) and Mark Rogers(percussion). Leading right into Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On", got everyone into the groove early and set the tone for the evening. There would be no major light show tonight, no elaborate costume/wardrobe changes; it was all about the music and His message. This diverse crowd of nineteen to ninety came to soak it all up, the glory of it all; "This is just the beginning, this is the movement for 2000," cheered Leroy.
All evening, we would be treated to NYC's finest jazz duo, Chops Horns, Dave Watson and Darryl Dixon. This musical hip hop horns section accompanied and shone on their own with killer sax and flute solos. Stunning.
With such an impressive musical intro, I was beginning to wonder if there was some mix up in tonight's order of performance. Aren't the headliner's supposed to be the big name out of town guests? Chops Horns would certainly have fit the bill. But as afore mentioned, tonight was all about Him and to that end, the best was reserved for last.
As NewWorldSon's Joel Parisien belted out a perfectly pitched "OM" to begin their set, silence prevailed. From that moment NWS commanded the complete attention of their audience and enthralled us with most of the new tracks from their latest Roots Revolution. It didn't matter that for most it was the first time hearing songs like the inspirational "Down From The Mountain" or the groovy skat intro to "Standing On The Rock", we basked in the glory.
Highlights seem pointless as their entire set rocked but a few moments did leave me spellbound. The roots-reggae track "Weary" with Joel's words "knocking on your door again" perfectly accompanied with tight harmonies from Josh Toal. A solid bass line intro to "Make Me Shake Holy Spirit" executed perfectly on the upright bass by Rich Moore. Lastly, the pure passion of supreme percussionist, Mark Rogers, hammering out a beat on everything around him, even beating out a tune on Toal's guitar was impressive.
NewWorldSon's mission is to "revitalize the music industry," Joel informed me earlier. With their unique blend of gospel inspiring lyrics, reggae-funk beats and a whole lot of soul NWS has "got something special," I overheard a zealous new fan comment. Yes, "something special" indeed.
For more information on Funkfest go to www.funkfest.ca.
Writer: Lisa Kerr