Greyboy Allstars & Dumpstaphunk 4.12.13
Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom
Words & Photos By Brad Yeakel
As winter and spring battled for the upper hand in Denver, I ventured out for some music that was as swinging as the temperature. While we waited in line at the box office, I heard a fan on the phone with his friend, "We're good dude, Dumpstaphunk hasn't even gone on yet." Surprise. Surprise. I hadn't even realized they were playing. Bonus. Dumpstaphunk has laid down some of the dirtiest, baddest funk on the planet. Bass player, Nick Daniels III slapped and popped his way into my favorites with a thick, rich tone and more bounce than those old Nike Basketball commercials where everyone did the fancy dribbling. If I had only one thing to say about the evening, it was that Daniels was an animal. Dumpstaphunk took a lot of their sound from Daniels' work, and while the other musicians were proficient, none stood out so clearly. The bass has always been paramount in funk music, and Daniels' playing was just how I like it... bold, full, punchy, and danceable. He laid in that super-funky slap/pluck style, rode the pocket, and dropped bombs as appropriate... like a Buddhist fighter pilot. (Do they exist?) Don't get me wrong, Ivan Neville lit up the keyboards, and Ian Neville and Tony Hall contributed concise guitar to the driving funk. Drummer Nikki Glaspie also kept a metronomic pace as she banged out inspired, enthusiastic rhythms with force. With an explosive opening band like this, the bar was pretty high for the headlining Greyboy Allstars.
Fortunately, Karl Denson and company were experts of jazz, funk, and boogaloo. As a fan of Denson's primary band, the Tiny Universe, as well as Robert Walters' 20th Congress, I've always really loved the Greyboy Allstars. I've seen them at some key times in my life. I listened from beyond the fence as they closed out Telluride Jazz Fest the night before Phish's 2010 Telluride run. They were also the first show I saw when I moved to Colorado. I met two of my very good friends, Ryan and Lindsay at that show, and have enjoyed some good fortune as a result... In fact, if it weren't for those friends, I may not have had the pleasure of writing this very article. The long and short of it, I've been receptive to the positive energy that the Allstars have created.
To be honest, high-flying, energy filled, adventurous pieces of music that utilize tension and release, and climb to emotional peaks have always been my preference in a live show. The Allstars did not always keep my attention on Friday night. Their musicianship was top notch, but after Dumpstaphunk's funky assault of my senses, I was numb to some of the smoother jazz's lighter tones, airier leads... like pastel next to neon. However, from time to time throughout the night, the band revved the engine and hammered on it. Their instrumental take on Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel," had me smiling, and Walters, Denson, and guitarist Elgin Park each had impressive solos throughout the show. Chris Stillwell (Coach C) was versatile and consistent with his bass-lines, but not nearly as intense as Dumpstaphunk's thunderous rump shakers. On the whole, the band was tight, the grooves hit, and the musicianship was excellent. Karl Denson commanded the room's attention with his soulful saxophone and his affable energy, and the band was as tight as you're likely to find at a club in Denver.
When it was last call, I realized that I had forgotten to check out the Werks, a Midwest band I'd heard great things about, so I snuck next door for a quick glimpse. From the limited time I watched them, I'd say they had the sound of a typical jamband... happy, energetic, improvisational rock. While I didn't find the sound very unique, or innovative, I was very impressed with the execution. Each member seemed to know their role, their instrument, and their bandmates well... key ingredients for a successful band. With my curiosity piqued, I returned to the ballroom and slipped through the intoxicated beauties, and lingering hippies, out onto Welton Street where spring continued to wrestle with winter.
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