So this is going to be an interesting post. Technically, it’s about Five Alarm Funk and their show at the Commodore on Saturday. But there adventures (or rather non-adventures) of a semi-musical nature.
When I got my favourite venue, it was about 10:53. Five Alarm Funk went on at 10:45. But something was amiss. There was a lineup down the street. This was highly unusual for the Commodore, as almost every other time I can simply walk up and get my media ticket. But not tonight. Apparently there was a problem with the IT System of the third party company that was contracted to book the tickets. It crashed. So the Commodore had to print everything out again or something; I’m still a little fuzzy on the actual details. Anyway, so I get in line for what could be a long, long wait.
As it happens in cases like these, people start mingling with one another. The woman behind me remarks that she has known FAF since 5th grade, and even sang with them at one point. I didn’t recognize this young lady at first. Her legs were quite tanned, she looked like she had come straight from the beach, plus she didn’t have the usual hippie braid in her hair and I was seeing her in a non-performance setting. But as our conversation continued, I figured out who she was. We chat about music, and Five Alarm Funk and her band. She plays the flute (and that’s what gave it away). Her friend, who I later realized was her bandmate, has disappeared surreptitiously down the street a few minutes earlier only to reappear with his hands wrapped around a giant crepe. Granville Street’s famous creperie – Cafe Crepe – is just one block away. The girls in front of us also came back with fries from McDicks.
At this point, the waiting has probably 25 minutes to a half hour. The buskers who were unintentionally entertaining us started repeating their songs. They ran out of material, my new acquaintance jokes. She sheepishly smiles as a passerby remarks that he is a huge fan of her and her band, Hey Ocean! Yes, I was standing in line chatting with Ashleigh Ball. (Dave, the man with the crepe, had laryngitis and was mute). After disclosing the three times I had seen her perform, we moved onto other things. Namely, about how well a documentary film she appeared in – she narrated it actually – was doing. The film was about Bronies. Bronies are adult male fans of My Little Pony. Ashleigh provides one of the lead character’s voice on the show. It recently screened here at the DOXA festival.
We’re almost in now! We can see the end of line (or the beginning if you will) and can almost taste the bouncer. The regular guy who recognizes me isn’t out front, so I get the usual pre-entrance spiel. Ashleigh gets whisked right in. And that would be the last I see of her. No matter, I have my ticket and in I go. Approximate entrance time was 11:32pm. 49 minutes.
I already knew at that point that I wasn’t going to stay for the whole thing. I had another show to get to that night, and was originally planning to leave at around 11:45. To get the most out of standing and waiting in line for three quarters of an hour, I stayed until 12:25.
When I got inside, I was already witnessing insanity. Tayo Brandston, FAF’s drummer and vocalist had already lost his shirt and was sweating like a mad juice pig. He had some sort of silver paint covering the lower half of his face and he was cursing like a motherfucker. It was thoroughly enjoyable.
FAF is a group of nine: drums, two guitars, bass congas, timbales, saxophone, trumpet and trombone. It was epic. They have been described as jazz fusion, but there are so many elements. Jazz, dance punk, latin music, rock, and so much more. Many of their songs are instrumentals. And how many does one get to witness a non-standard jazz/rock-based trumpet solo. Or a saxophone solo. By the time I had entered, it had transmogrified itself into a giant rave. In the best way possible. I laughed at how intense Tayo seemed. A sweating, half-naked, cursing, drumming man child with a mild afro was at the centre of all this madness. It was truly brilliant.
So, even with all the waiting in line, my having to leave early, the sheer craziness of it all, my credit card being declined in the taxi, it was a pretty crazy and enjoyable night. Five Alarm Funk is definitely one of the most musically original bands I’ve come across in recent months. And they are insanely (and obscenely) talented! And meeting Ashleigh Ball was cool as well!
Five Alarm Funk’s fifth album – Abandon Earth – was released on June 7, 2014.