Down to Funk officially released its EP, RU?, this past Friday night at USC’s hippest music venue, Tommy’s Place. With a merch table stacked with CDs, DTF was ready to celebrate with old fans, new fans and the opening acts, Segun and House Fire.
House Fire started the night off right with a solid, yet laid-back feel. Although the band’s sound wasn’t quite in the funk genre, the band did not disappoint the crowd.
Aman Alem, the lead singer majoring in music performance, jokingly said to the crowd that everyone was probably wondering why they were even there.
The band members performed at ease and judging by the genuine smiles on their faces looked like they were having some great moments on stage. The music flowed in an organic and natural way, similar to something that would be heard at a summer night’s beach party.
Each member stood out in some way throughout the set, whether it be Alem’s soulful voice or a solid bass groove. After the group’s set came to a close, an audience member walked up to the stage to talk to the drummer and walked back saying “I just touched a superhero.”
Kicking it up a notch in the funk department, Segun, wearing a classic bright red top hat and suspenders with an all white slacks and dress shirt, commanded the attention of the audience.
Segun without a doubt has the characteristics of an entertaining and dedicated performer. No matter what he sang, from Aretha Franklin’s energetic “Think” to his original ballad “Hero,” he put his heart and soul into his performance. Switching the instrumentation up a bit with an acoustic guitar in “Hero” was a nice touch to the emotional song.
His voice has a very smooth tone that allows him to hit the sweet spots of a range of notes with little to no struggle.
Segun had the spirit of James Brown’s old-school charm during his cover of Janelle Monáe’s “Tightrope.” Encouraging the audience to dance it up as his band jammed, he whirled around the stage with swift footwork. Even when his mic stand started to fall towards the floor, he swung near it and caught it as if it was a part of the dance.
After a long wait, Down to Funk finally graced the stage with a mission to “funkify your life and move your feet,” according to DTF’s Facebook music page.
Luckily, by the time they began to funk everyone up, Tommy’s began to fill up with people eager to dance.
Playing both new and old jams, there was always a constant drive within the songs that powered ahead, even during solos. From a dynamic horn section, to a keyboardist flying his hands over the keys, to a beastly drummer in a pair of flip flops, the skill level of the night was at an all-time high. It isn’t every day a bass player, like DTF’s Thor, is seen slapping away on what looked like a five-string bass. The only complaint would be the guitarist being a tad overpowering in volume, but his technique made up for it.
The soulful lead singer, Lara Johnson, may be small in stature and size but she has some powerful pipes to belt it out.
She did a great job at working the stage and making a connection with the crowd. Walking and jumping around the stage in high heels would make most women cringe at the thought, but Johnson looked like she was as comfortable as if they were a pair of old sneakers.
DTF promised the crowd a surprise and they definitely lived up to it. During their rendition of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up,” Harry Mack, a freestyle rapper, joined the band on stage with a warm welcome from the crowd and spit out a couple verses.
The beauty of Mack’s delivery was that he incorporated his surroundings, such as specific members of the audience, people playing pool or the atmosphere of Tommy’s Place.
Ending the show by bringing out saxophonist Justin Klunk and vocalists Jordan Pharoah, Alem and Segun was a great choice for “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder. It left people pleased, yet wanting to hear more. Until their next performance, fans will have to satisfy their craving for funk by purchasing and listening to the DTF’s EP.