BoomBox 2.0: Keeping the Deep Funk Alive

•February 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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I remember the first time I saw BoomBox live. It was 2010 at Summer Camp Music Festival and Zion and Russ had the sunset set: 6:00 to 7:00 pm. It wasn’t a “rain all weekend year” for Summer Camp, so instead it was just blazing hot. The sun was slowly setting, and we were all willing it to creep behind the horizon juust a little bit faster.

I had never heard BoomBox before but after that first Summer Camp set, I was hooked. The sounds I heard flowing from the stage twisted into a perfect combination of funk, house and good ‘ol rock n’ roll. It was gritty yet seductive; deep and slow but so groovable. And that sax added a jazz element that tied it all together into a sound I easily fell in love with. To seal the deal, that same night they had a DJ set at 2:00 am in the Vibe Tent. This was before the Vibe Tent was on ‘roids and was still small, offering up an intimate, yet super sweaty, setting. It was the only time I’d ever seen BoomBox do a DJ set, but right then and there my love for their sound was clear. Over the years I’ve heard how BoomBox has evolved and honed their sound while staying true to those deep, psychedelic house, funky ass roots.

I’m only diving deep into this nostalgia bucket because just this past weekend I had the pleasure of catching BoomBox at the Majestic Theater in Detroit, MI. If you’ve been following them, then you know they had a recent member switch-up. Russ Randolph is no longer on the ones and twos, but is moving on to pursue a solo project. It was a big change and for some it may have been slightly scary. But after seeing the shows I’ve seen recently, I’m here to tell you that those BoomBox roots are strong and aren’t going anywhere.

BoomBox came into the Majestic and threw down a hot ass show that not many recently past BoomBox shows can contest. DJ Harry has taken Russ’s place on the ones and twos and brings it just as hard, if not harder. Coming from a deep house background, it seems he’s captured the essence of BoomBox effortlessly. It’s been said many times before that one of the driving forces behind BoomBox is its live, house element. When it was Zion and Russ, the two acted as a vibe sponge, feeding off the energy the crowd was giving them. When the vibe was lit and the guys were on, it made for some pretty amazing shows. But when I sat back and watched Zion and DJ Harry at the Majestic, I couldn’t help but notice a difference. The two were still feeding off the crowd’s energy- there was no doubt about that- but the transfer of energy was reciprocal. I had the feeling that no matter what energy the crowd had come with that night the guys would have created the energy they wanted to ensure every last body was boogying.

They played the tracks BoomBox fans love and would expect to hear like “Tonight”, “Stereo” and “Dirty Red Penny,” but also dug down deep and played a handful of obscure tracks that aren’t found on albums. I was stoked to hear “Please” and “Right Around Two” get thrown into the mix; and when “Baby Caught My Blues” makes an appearance it’s a surefire sign of a great show. (Go ahead, test it.)

All of these tracks are dripping with that classic BoomBox sound, and as I heard them flow from the stage I could see there is real chemistry between Zion and DJ Harry. Zion was in his element, hitting crisp clear notes and clearly having fun while doing it. He seemed relaxed and poised, playing each track with intention. DJ Harry was weaving in and out of tracks easily, and most importantly, keeping that house element of BoomBox alive. Between each track he’d take a couple minutes and throw down a quick mix that tied into the next track.

It truly was a great show, but the point I’m really trying to make with all this is that BoomBox hasn’t gone anywhere. With a member switch up, the sound hasn’t changed. In fact, it may actually be a crisper, more realized BoomBox sound. A return to those roots that twisted so intimately to form the sound I love. It was gritty, funky and seductive. It strikes a chord that makes you want to follow that backbeat with a steady swing of your hips and a slow sway of your arms. I can’t call this term my own, but it was slut funk. And I wouldn’t have my BoomBox any other way.

To finish it off, these two have only been playing together on tour for about a month. If they’ve sparked a visible chemistry this early on, I can only be led to believe that BoomBox has some great things in store for us in the coming months. Cheers.

 

Setlist:
Tonight
Bits and Pieces
Please
Thick as Thieves
Right Around Two
Baby Caught My Blues ****
Waiting Around
Laid Back and Loaded
Sahara
Wanted
Stereo
Funky Style
Dirty Red Penny
World

Let’s Get Drunk and Gritty with R.E.B.L Music

•February 17, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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There are a lot of people these days that say hip hop is dead. For a while, I was one of them but that’s only because I wasn’t looking in the right places. For one, you certainly won’t find real hip hop on the wavelengths flowing over the radio. All you’ll find there are watered down, pampered and embarrassing remnants of what started out as true expression of self and culture. OK, so there may still be an expression of self and culture, but it’s certainly not any self I’d want to associate with. But that’s just me.

What I will associate myself with though is the hip hop duo R.E.B.L Music. I say duo, but they’re not really a duo anymore. Taurus Wrecks and Rokko (vocals) have been on their MC game since 1999, but as of 2011 they added a full band and a fresh spin to their gritty, Chitown style. The combination is truly unique, and not only that but it’s super fly. With Matt McCarthy on guitar, Jay “Cokelogic” Daley on bass, Adam Schurch on drums, Bludshot working the production and the duo on the mic it makes for a great show.

In fact, one of the most hype shows I’ve seen from R.E.B.L Music yet was this past Saturday, February 9th at the Double Door. Coming on after Blah Blah Blah the guys really amped up the somewhat dead scene and got the crowd going. They started off with Windy Citizens, a track that exemplifies the corrupt politics of our lovely Windy City. The guys have intelligent flows that are exceedingly witty at times. Heavy on the Chicago representation, they’ll drop a line and make you think, “Wait, what did they say? Oh, ya, that’s right I am corrupt like my city is.” Well, sometimes. That aside, the guys are talented in the flows department and when you add the funky, laid-back beat the band behind them delivers it makes for a complete sound.

This past Saturday that sound was really rich. With the seemingly STS9-influenced guitar riffs carrying the duo’s flow their sound doesn’t just appeal to the hip hop heads hungry for wordplay, but adds an element you can really get down and dirty to. I like that a lot because the guys’ flows are a bit gritty and in your face- kind of like the city of wind itself. Further into their show the guys played Animal– a super funky beat with rough and to-the-point flows. Often times T-Wrecks and Rokko remind me of the Kentucky-based group CunninLynguists, not only because of the style, their cunning linguistics and their ear-perking beats, but also the gritty, matter-of-fact way they deliver their craft. Not to be mistaken though, R.E.B.L Music has a style all their own and they do quite well with it.

They closed their show out with Let’s Get Drunk (where McCarthy laid down a sick guitar-riff session), Speaker City and Mind Skips. The show was a ton of fun and I could see that the group has been putting in work and getting synched up to weave their sounds together. So far that combination of sound is smooth, gritty and a whole bag of fun. If you get the chance to catch R.E.B.L Music next time they’re around, it would be a wise decision on your part.

Check out the video below of the guys performing at the Double Door this past Saturday. AND Check out some of their tracks here.

Also, check out Matt’s sweet guitar sesh during Speaker City:

Instrumental Jam Fusion with Digeometric at the Ace Bar

•February 7, 2013 • Leave a Comment
Digeometric groovin' at Ace

Digeometric groovin’ at Ace

Have you heard of instrumental jam fusion? If you have, then kudos to you, friend! But if you haven’t then it may be time for Digeometric to school you because they can certainly teach you a thing or two. That’s exactly what they did at the Ace bar on January 31st. Now, I’ve seen Digeometric before and each time it has been a ton of brass-infused, electro-funk fun. This past show at the Ace bar though was a real heater. For one, the Ace bar is a nice, intimate venue where all of us listeners can get up close and personal and rub elbows as we get down to some good music. I think this is a great venue for a group like Digeo and they rocked it.

With that, let me paint you a little picture of this past Digeometric show. Hitting the stage before S.O.A.P. performed their David Bowie cover set (which was awesome), the guys tore up the stage for a solid hour full of brass, bass and all-around smoothness. The concert area of the bar was pretty much packed with an attentive crowd grooving to the funky instrumental jam fusion that Digeometric was delivering. They started off with Maybe Later and came out strong with Alex on sax. Right there with him was Marty on an ewi, or an electric woodwind instrument. So, with the ewi, I wasn’t quite sure what I was seeing at first and assumed it was an electric recorder or electric clarinet. To be honest, I really wasn’t sure what it was.

But that is precisely why Digeometric can teach you a thing or two! It sounds more like an electric sax and adds an interesting touch to what the group already has going on. Marty switched to a real sax mid-track so that brass sound was really strong. I love when a group can take an antique, timeless sound like that of the sax and weave it in with something more modern you can groove to. Digeo does this and the result is pretty dope.

Digeometric has a nice fusion of jazz and funk, which in my opinion is an all-star combo. After Maybe Later they moved on to play the Force kicking it off with some real funky keyboard by Alex and Ken killing it on bass. I think I enjoyed this track the most because the bass reminded me of some dub. (Not dub step, mind you. Yes, we are in that day and age where I have to specify, but I’m talking real dub with that deep, strong bass.) Marty got back on that ewi and within a couple of minutes they were flowing back into that eclectic, fusion sound. They built the track up to real high and Dave even took some time to play his guitar with the mic stand. Again, you could learn a thing or two from these guys, ya?

Towards the end the guys played Spiraling which was one of their smoother, low-key tracks. They kept that electro-jazz going with their last track, Everything Moves. Much of what I really like about Digeometric is that smooth brass and the vibe that comes from all of the other instruments meshing really nicely with it (including the ewi). Their Ace bar show was a ton of fun and the crowd was vibing and getting down with Digeo the whole time. You could really tell the guys brought the energy needed for that show.

If you haven’t heard of that instrumental jam fusion, or Digeometric for that matter, get yourself to one of their shows in Chicago and get groovin’. It’s sure to be an electro-funk, real smooth time- guaranteed. You can keep up-to-date with them here: Digeometric

Digeometric is:

Dave Campbell – Electric Guitar
Alex Francois – Tenor Sax / Keys
Mike Duffy – Drums
Marty Gierczyk – Tenor Sax / EWI
Ken Pecho – Electric Bass

Want to hear that instrumental jam fusion sound? Check out their set at the Ace bar below:

Mirror

•June 29, 2012 • Leave a Comment

P.s. that fleeting track was mirror

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Gettin’ Funky and Smooth at the Bottom Lounge with My Faves

•April 25, 2012 • Leave a Comment
If ya look closely, you can see Z smiling. Chicago gets down!

If ya look closely, you can see Z smiling. Chicago gets down!

I left off with them last, so it’s only right that I sign onto my little blog here with them on my mind once again. In truth, they never left my mind but that’s beside the point. For those that were there this past Saturday: Hell Ya. Chicago really brought it for BoomBox at the Bottom Lounge and in true form, BoomBox returned the favor two-fold. For over two hours, my loves played one of the best shows I have seen from them. It’s up there with the Flagstaff show from this past Souvenirs, Novelties and Party Tricks Winter Tour, which was absolutely ridiculous.

I have to say, I have seen BoomBox upwards of seven times in the past few months and they have yet to bore me. I, of course, knew they wouldn’t but when I offer certain information to others (sayy, that I saw BoomBox four times in a six-day period on an excursion through the west coast) it seems to me that they are a bit amazed. Amateurs. Obviously they are unaware of the fact that BoomBox never plays the same show, they never have a set list and they base their sets off of the energy the crowd gives them. That’s because BoomBox is, well, a living, breathing boombox up there for you.

See, the thing about BoomBox is it’s never, “OK let’s play this song.” Song plays. “Thanks. Let’s now play this song.” That couldn’t be any farther from the reality that is BoomBox. A BoomBox show is at its roots a dj set with groovy ass guitar riffs that, if you’re lucky enough, will space you out of this world. When on point, Z has the power to snap you out of your current bodily state and send your mind off to drift into the outer edges of this thing we like to call reality. In combination with the smooth and funky beats doled out by the Captain, it’s difficult to walk into a room pulsing with the life’s breath of BoomBox and walk out unsatisfied. I can tell you right now, that’s never happened to me, but I’m a lover of all things BoomBox, so perhaps my opinion is biased.

Let’s take a step back here for a moment, though. Chicago and BoomBox rocked each other like true lovers in the night. They came out smooth as ever with their latest release “Me and My Baby.” Starting off with this track got the entire crowd pumped for what was to flow from these two marvels the rest of the night. With trippy, funky bass in combination with Z’s soft, celestial strumming it seems as though the music can tell the story on its own without the lyrics. “Child of the light, you’re a superstar.” Whenever I hear this track, I can’t help but smile and my feet can’t seem to stop moving. It’s a beautiful song that you can groove to and that combination, my friends, is priceless.

To keep the funk train a rollin’, the guys eased into Kool Aid Smile. I always love when this track creeps in, because that’s exactly what it does. It creeps in slowly and has this deep, seductive bass to it that’s so hot. I know when I’m going to get a Kool Aid Smile because Russ starts it off with soft, cymbal claps and Z taps out funky, outer space-like sounds on deck. And then, then my friends you get the real treat. The smooth, yet in-your-face guitar riff that slowly lures you in and is one of many that will forever be stuck in my brain. It’s as if each note bopping into the air is singing, ‘come on inside…you know you want to.’ Ah, then Russ brings in the deep bass and the real fun begins. Kool Aid Smile is one of the smoothest tracks and if this can’t get you moving, I’m not quite sure what will. Of course, this wasn’t a problem seeing as though part of the crowd decided to get up on the stage and show the guys how Chicago really gets down. That’s the thing with Kool Aid Smile. It’s got this seductive beat to it that’s really irresistible.

The guys were so on point with their transitions for this show. There was not one second where I turned around and saw the crowd lulling or confused. Every track flowed into the next creating the perfect, symbiotic relationship of energy, sound and movement in the small, cozy space we shared. That energy was carried out to the next track which happens to be one of my favorites, Mr. Boogieman. It’s so important to note that the music barely ever ceases to flow from Russ and Z during a show. It’s a non-stop flow of one piece of greatness into the next. With Boogieman, it seemed like the energy jolted up to another volt. One of the things I like most about BoomBox is their transitions from tracks into live, house music. After Boogieman, the guys fell into a house jam that was unlike a lot of the ones I’ve heard as of late. I’ve noticed that the past two times they’ve come to Chicago they’ve brought the deep, bass funk with them. This jam was really chill and gave somewhat of a breather, if only for a moment.

The track they went into next is perhaps the one song I have yet to pinpoint. It’s a beautiful track and it shames me that I haven’t yet figured out what it’s called. After this fleeting track, Russ hopped on his drum set and the beat was smooth and deep. It was a great jam and wrought with deep bass and rhythmic, chill out vibes. Chicago loved this groove- almost as much as they loved “Like a Feather” which came next. It’s interesting to move from deep bass to this because “Feather” is airy and well, light as a feather, but they mastered it all the same. The time warp-like beat with the light, hopping bop in combination with Z’s poetic lyrics always leave me feeling like a little kid again. Light, happy and floating through the atmosphere. Much like the crowd, this track was smooth and unrelenting, and a true treat for Chicago. Like any treat handed to you on a floating, silver platter we ate it up and asked for more. The room had to be getting hotter still because I could see Russ take a minute to wipe the sweat from his brow. He was working hard to please us and that did not go unnoticed or unappreciated. It was no secret that the crowd was sweating too. Nonstop dancing will do that to the best of us!

The guys closed out the show with a soul-searching “World” which drifted into “India.” ‘Mexico…I’m ready!’  The show wouldn’t be complete without a “Round and Round”, another fabulous house jam sesh and a “Headchange.” After two hours of being fully entranced and taken to the outer edges of space and back, the show ended with “Watergun.” Unfortunately, as with every show, the intoxicating beats and riffs coming from the stage had to end at some point, but not without the crowd urging BoomBox to come back for more. Like a true temptress, the living, breathing entity that is BoomBox always leaves the crowd wanting more. If you ever get to witness BoomBox come back for an encore, consider yourself one lucky star. While this upsets some people, I have to agree with the guys. Not that it would be a difficult task for them, but stopping the flow of energy and trying to pick up where you left off or bringing that flow of energy back for just a short time longer seems silly and goes against the very fiber that weaves and turns to create BoomBox. They delivered over two hours of unyielding energy that flowed from one end to another and back again flawlessly. To try to capture that seamless flow once again in a five-minute interval would just be a tease.

Chicago really brought it for BoomBox and, in fact, sold out the Bottom Lounge. I think as a true thanks and a testament to the surging, good energy in the room, BoomBox brought it right back for Chicago. They were last here in September of last year and we waited seven months for them to grace us with their presence. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait that long again. However, if we do, Russ and Z should know that Chi-town will be here waiting patiently for their smooth and intoxicating funky house beats once again. Chicago loves you dearly.

Warning, watching this trippy video may mock the feelings of sea sickness, but I still kinda like it. Me and My Baby. Enjoy.

Poor Blog

•April 13, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I’ve neglected you for too long, Fran Tunes. And for that, I am so very, very sorry. I will be back! Fran Tunes will once again deliver articles full of music awesomeness. My fingertips will pound on the keyboards with fervor to bring your posts back to life. You just wait, Fran Tunes. You just wait. This is not the end for you!

-Fran

Visions of BOOMBOX

•September 30, 2011 • Leave a Comment


This is getting ridiculous. I have been repeatedly showering my ears with the smooth and funky notes of BoomBox lately and I have to say, I’m not done.  Sure, I’ve pulled the music binge on many artists (ahem, pretty lights) but this is really just an all out BoomBox feast and I can’t stop.

But I’m cool with it because BoomBox has been literally killing it all over the place. I’m a huge fan of Halloween in the Chi but lack of anything fun this year and a show with BoomBox may be pushing me to celebrate All Hallows Eve in Detroit. Heh?
Yes, BoomBox is playing with Claude Von Stroke and Tiga at the Freaky Deaky October 29th at Bert’s Warehouse Theatre in Detroit. I would never consider traveling to Detroit for my Halloween festivities, but the appearance of BoomBox in combination with other dope dj’s is too tempting to say no.
Not to mention I will be catching them before that over in Athens, Georgia for their show there.
Bananas.

If BoomBox is playing soon anywhere near you, it would do you and your music loving ears to go. If not, no problem. Thanks for the extra room on the dance floor.