by Christian Pezzino
For a band fresh off of the first leg of their “Don’t You Want to Look at Us?” tour, eight-piece funk ensemble Swift Technique has sure drawn a lot of attention. These local Philadelphians riled up the crowd during their frenetic funk throwdown Thursday night at the Blockley. With so many musicians onstage, this octet naturally brings a high energy, layered sound to their music, containing a heavy funk horn section bursting forth from trumpet, trombone, and saxophone like fourth of July fireworks. With these elements is a perfect mixture of smooth melodic bass lines and a crunchy clean rhythm guitar that manages to harness these wild ostentatious grooves. With the help Jay Davidson’s keys and Mike Mahoney’s swingin’ uptempo drumbeats, the band induces a filthy, funklicious dance party. At one point near the end of their set, the horn section hopped off stage to tromp around the bar, forming a full-fledged conga line, stopping amongst the crowd to get down with their instruments. This band certainly knows how to draw the energy from the crowd to put on a truly amazing performance. After a brief west coast stint in August, Swift Technique returns to Philly on August 23rd for a show at The Hard Rock Cafe with ILL Doots and The Royal Noise.
Shortly afterwards, the funk/jazz trio Soulive hit the stage. Comprised of Eric Krasno on guitar, Alan Evans on drums, and his brother Neal Evans on a Hammond B3 organ, bass keys, and clavinet, this stylish trio (they were all wearing suits!) eased into their set sweet and slow during “Hat Trick” before settling into the very jazzy “Turn It Out” where Evans rocked the clavinet to the flurry of Krasno’s insatiable jazz styled guitar. Even without a bassist, Evans held down the bass flawlessly with his left hand, creating a rich poignant sound underlying his organ and clav jamming. The set begins to heat up with a rockin’ drum solo before their classic tune “Uncle Junior.” Evans’ drums felt rich and graceful, and he very well may rank as one of the best funk-jazz drummers around today. After a fiery rendition of Hendrix’s “Manic Depression,” Krasno led the heavy funk number “Backwards Jack” where Evans’ key really shined and Krasno’s soloing helped form a tremendous jazz-induced psychosis of technical shredding from each member. Although the Beatles’ cover “Come Together” felt a tad stale, Hendrix’s “Third Stone from the Sun” made up for it as the band explored space-jazz melodies before taking off into blues driven licks of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s“Lenny.” The next few songs comprised more of the same as both Krasno and Evans exchanged solos to build up songs to near monumental proportions before dropping back into their respective funk grooves.
Although I wished a few members from Swift Technique would have sat-in with Soulive, catching seasoned vets and the up-and-coming members alike made for a truly special night and allowed the crowd, for just a moment, to lose themselves deep within the funky rhythms of modern funk.