Funk, a wise man said, is something we can all agree on. Ok, maybe I was the one who said it, but I believe it to be true. There’s something very human and universal about dancing, and no genre brings it out quite like raw funk. Thursday night proved to be a testament to this universal truth as two top-flight bands brought their funky A-games to the Fine Line.
The opening act, Pho, has been on my radar for quite some time. Playing an accomplished, and occasionally Prince-esque old-school-meets-jazz-new-school style of funk, they’ve long been one of my favorite local bands since the release of their debut album in 2015. Of course, like any good band, they’ve evolved a lot since their humble beginnings.
I walked into the set a few minutes late, during an extended jazzy jam. This facet of the band has always been there, but seemed to be especially on display tonight, perhaps because they were opening for a “Jam band” in Tauk. Though they featured a good deal of improvisation, the band never lost their focus, while keeping the rhythms tight. The set featured varying styles of funk, from the jazzy and atmospheric stylings to tighter, more up-tempo fare.
My favorite part about this band is that at any time any player can take the spotlight without ever appearing greedy. Each member is talented, and the band has a definite personality about them without having a dynamic frontman hogging the spotlight. It’s a credit to them, and something a lot of bands could learn from. In addition, they write great songs, which, even to an instrumental band, is an important ingredient to any live show. While many of the songs stood out, the spacier “Kodesh“ was a highlight for me. Featuring an extended trumpet solo and gorgeous keys, the song meshed particularly well with the rest of the set. After finishing with “Papa Joe,” the band left the stage, knowing they played their part in what shaped up to be a great night.
Tauk is another band I’ve listened to for quite some time. Unlike Pho, however, this was my first time seeing them live. A funk quartet of an entirely different breed, they turned the energy up and satisfied the crowd’s needs.
Playing a heavier sound, more rooted in fusion than pure funk, the band wasted no time in establishing themselves as worthy headliners. They played complex, multi-sectioned songs with improvisational elements that never felt loose or overly jam-heavy. You could arguably classify them as a prog band, or a jam band, but either label sells them short. However, like many great prog and jam bands, they exuded virtuosity, with each member demonstrating an excellent handle of their instrument.
While each member was strong, drummer Isaac Teel was my favorite to watch. He executes complex rhythms with ease and takes the occasional brilliant and concise solo. The set took a while to really get going, but once it did the crowd was fully engaged, their collective jaw dropped at what was unfolding before them. The music was constant, with the band rarely taking a breather between songs, and the fans loved it. I hadn’t seen this band before, but I surely will again.