Funkfest @ The Meeting House

Meeting House, The
March 29, 2008
Generations of funk came together on the Meeting House stage for the first annual Funkfest in Oakville, Ontario.

The night began with a funky history lesson from LMT Connection. Sharing drummer Mark Rogers with headliners Newworldson the power trio also included bassist John Irvine and frontman funk veteran Leroy Emmanuel. With the addition of world-renowned horn players Chops Horns the band got the night started off with an upbeat traditional funk sound.

Emmanuel certainly knew a thing or two about funk, wailing away on his bright green electric guitar, but it was his impressive moves on a less traditional instrument that got the crowd going. Turning down the lights the band unplugged for a few tunes in salute of Earth Hour. “Before there was electricity there was drums,” Emmanuel said as Rogers kept the beat, “and out of that darkness came music.” Emmanuel finished while filling the room with music using just his deep soulful voice and a pair of kitchen spoons banging against his knee.

The band blew through tunes from their current disc Color Me Funky like, “Funk is the Final Frontier”, “Curtis” and “Constant Things”. But the highlight of the night came not with what was new, but what was nostalgic. Reminiscing about his times playing for the legendary R&B, soul record label Motown he told tales of Berry Gordy Jr. and the Temptations. But it wasn’t till he showed of his Motown chops on tunes like “On Broadway” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” that the crowd really started to groove.

The headliners hit the stage after a short break with the piano front and centre and a new take on old time funk. Starting the set with “Empty Heart” off of their record Salvation Station the band got the crowd on their feet early on in the set. Led by vocalist and piano man Joel Parisien the band pumped out their brand of funk, with a catchy and heavily pop-influenced sound. The only shame was that frontman was partially hidden behind a black cloth covered table that his keyboard was sitting on top of making it difficult to catch all the grooving that was happening on stage.

Though the crowd kept dancing throughout the night it wasn’t all fun and games. Parisien talked briefly about his disappointment on a recent tour with the Newsboys in the United States that a military recruiting station was setting up in the venue, “The theme of the night [was] peace,” he said commenting that the station was most definitely out of place right next to their merchandise booth, “it reminds me of how messed up the world is sometimes,” he went on “sometimes the only way to get over that hump is to jump a little,” he said before launching into “Babylon is Gonna Fall”.

Without missing a beat the band switched gears, showed off a different side slowing it down for some traditional gospel with “Sweet Holy Spirit”.

But staying with the funky mood of the evening they sped it back up with drummer Mark Rogers playing everything from the microphone stand to a guitar case before finishing the set off with their album’s title tune “Salvation Station”. The band finished off the night covering a tune by a soul-funk pioneer, Stevie Wonder’s “Have A Talk With God.”

From the moment the band hit the stage the crowd hit their feet dancing in the aisles and singing along up until the final bar. “When I ask people to get up,” Parisien said, “usually only about fifty per cent of people stand,” He commented to an entire crowd on their feet “I’m glad people came here to get down.”

Writer: Michelle Garcia

Photo:Michelle Garcia

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