Vancouver, B.C. has always been a musical town.
But back in the day, as far as sizzling, soulful funk, it was something of a desert … until some mysterious force drew two young cats together who would change that in a hurry.
From their first house party jams, drummer Tayo Branston and guitarist Gabe Boothroyd gathered a community of musicians who shared their love for James Brown, Tower Of Power, Tito Puente, Antibalas, Frank Zappa and other adventurous groove-driven players. They called themselves Five Alarm Funk, drew more than 300 fans to their first gig at a local place called The Fairview Pub, established a residency at Richards On Richards where upwards of 800 attendees would show up each night – to eventually embark on a 37-day, cross-continental track involving 30 shows from Vancouver to Fredericton.
Since then, they’ve expanded their lineup to include Eli Bennett on sax, Oliver Gibson on guitar, Tom Towers on congas, Carl Julig on timbales, Kent Wallace on trumpet, Jay Smith on bass, and Jens Christiansen on sax. They’ve broadened their territory to include the U.S., played as far afield as Taiwan, rocked the Riverbend Festival in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and begun releasing EPs and CDs. The most recent of these, 2017’s Sweat, explodes with fiery rhythms, punchy horns and gang-chant vocals that sum up the irresistible essence of this band.
They’re now deep into a new project that involves adding all-star guest vocals onto some of the more volatile tracks from their catalog, beginning with a Bootsy Collins appearance.
“I’ve been a Bootsy Collins fan ever since I was 15,” Branston marvels. “That track we gave him, ‘Capital City,’ is one of the funkiest things we’ve ever cut. With that experience and our back catalog, you’ll see a lot more of this from us.”
With future releases and reissues with big-time rappers and funksters on the horizon, their sights are set on bringing their magic to festivals throughout the world. More sweat, more dancing … more Five Alarm Funk.
Joining Five Alarm Funk on their Van Isle tour is Vancouver-based funk-rock group, Raincity. Fronted by female leads on saxophone and vocals, their audacious performances are loaded with engaging interplay and explosive energy. The five members of Raincity combine their eclectic influences including Amy Winehouse, Moon Hooch, and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, creating a distinctive sound with infectious grooves, chameleon tones, and no regard for boundaries. Each musician is equipped with as much personality as style, leading to a dynamic live experience that is unapologetic and empowering.
Raincity first came together as a jazz trio in 2016, known then as Raincity Blue before growing to a five-piece. Throughout 2018, Raincity performed at a number of festivals including Rifflandia, the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, and with the help of FACTOR, presented at Canadian Music Week in Toronto. With the support of Creative BC and having just won The Roxy Launch Project, they recorded their self-titled EP at Warehouse Studios in November 2018 (released June 2019).
In 2019, they opened for Our Lady Peace and Bif Naked at the Surrey Canada Day mainstage and toured Vancouver Island, Interior BC, and Washington. They finished off the year by winning the Best in Vancouver competition hosted by LiveActs, releasing their first music video for “Give This Up”, and playing the Commodore Ballroom opening for Vancouver Funk legends Five Alarm Funk. Upcoming 2020 releases include a music video for “Crazy” directed by Wayne Chung and Bailey Wood and a new single called “Insomnia” recorded at Blue Light Studios.
Sponsored by the Campbell River Mirror, 99.7 2DAY FM and What’s On Digest, the Tidemark Theatre will present, Five Alarm Funk with special guest Raincity at the Tidemark Theatre on March 12. Tickets are $32 for Members and $37 for Non-Members (+applicable taxes and fees) and can be purchased at the Box Office Tuesday through Thursday between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. Tickets are also available online: tidemarktheatre.com OR 287-PINK!