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Flow Tribe at the Gramercy Theatre

Mike Perciaccante By

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Flow Tribe
Gramercy Theatre
New York, NY
May 20, 2016

Funk is a rhythmic, danceable genre of music that mixes soul, jazz, and R&B. The music features a strong and rhythmic bass and drum backbeat. Interestingly this backbeat and rhythm which is usually in the background is moved to the foreground in the funk genre. Most funks songs have an extended single chord that the bass and drums help to drag out. Funk heavily borrows from the minor chord sound of bebop jazz with added flourishes.

New Orleans funk incorporated Afro-Cuban rhythms, Latin rhythms and off-beat syncopations into what had been generally accepted as funk. Being that New Orleans can lay claim to being the birthplace of jazz, and that funk is based in jazz this can be considered a natural progression. Conversely, because of the many musical influences that have come from and to New Orleans, a case can be made that the city is also the birthplace of R&B, the blues and rock 'n' roll.

Some of the funkiest purveyors of the genre call New Orleans home—The Meters, Galactic, The Wild Tchoupitoulas, Dumpstafunk, The Wild Magnolias, Garage A Trois and even The Dirty Dozen Brass Band. A case could be made for Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Shorty's cousin Glen David Andrews, Bonerama, and even Henry Butler and Kermit Ruffins. The music created by all of these artists is based in good old funk.

Today, funk as we know it, contains elements of rock, pop, blues soul, jazz and a touch of art/prog rock. Artists who deliver the tastiest grooves include all of the groups and musicians named earlier as well as Bootsy Collins, Larry Graham, the late Prince, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Parliament/Funkadelic led by George Clinton and others too large in number to list here.

Flow Tribe is a New Orleans-based funk band that fuses all of the above mentioned aspects and possible influences of the genre. In addition, the band brings a bit of a ska, as well as a swamp and surf element into its approach to modern funk. The musical gumbo served by the band is second to none. Its tasty and brilliant. The six member band is comprised of K.C. O'Rorke (vocals, trumpet), Chad Penot (bass, vocals), John Michael Early (harmonica, vocals, keyboard, washboard), Bryan Santos (guitar, timbales), Mario Palmisano (guitar) and Russel Olschner (drums). Flow Tribe plays wildly original and irresistible songs as well as a number of choice covers that it completely makes its own.

A Flow Tribe performance is hot. The energy is high and the band members' enthusiasm is amazing. The band's songs feature a number of instruments: horns, harmonica, guitar, bass, drums, timbales, washboard, keyboards, and others. The show also features some of the most fluid, fun and for lack of a better word, funkiest dance moves and choreography that rival those seen at a Madonna show.

On a warm and pleasant Friday evening in late May, Flow Tribe touched down at New York City's Gramercy Theatre. The treated the all ages crown in the packed mid-sized venue (there are no seats on the floor, with a number of seats toward the rear of the auditorium in what would have been the back of the mezzanine when it was a movie theatre) to exactly what they came for—an evening of fun, cool and stunning New Orleans-influenced funk drenched in good-time danceable high energy beats. The New Orleans funksters opened by shouting "Whatsup, NYC!" Leaning on its two studio releases, Alligator White (Independent, 2014) and Pain Killer (Independent, 2012), the band delivered a strong set featuring the originals "Gosando" (with its Mamacita que bonita lyric), "Good Time Girl," "Hungry For You," "Gimme A Line" (with its smooth rhythms is a must for any party or roadtrip soundtrack) "Walk Like An Animal" a breakneck version of "Won't Be Long" (featuring Early on vocals) and "Ooh Yeah" as well as the excellent cover versions of "Rapper's Delight" and "My Girl."

The music was dynamic, bright, smoldering, groove-laden, at times bizarre, always enticing, and downright get- your-butt-on-the-floor danceable. The crowd began bopping to the beat from the first notes and didn't stop until the band had left the stage.

Flow Tribe is a band that is just now coming into its own. It tours regularly, playing over 100 gigs a year and is a regular on the festival circuit in both the U.S. and Europe. The band is poised for stardom. See this band now before they break so big and hard that all of their shows will sell out in minutes.

Photo Credit: Christine Connallon
[Additional article contributions by Christine Connallon].

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