Consisting of all 3 members of North Mississippi Allstars (Cody and Luther Dickinson as well as Chris Chew) rounded out with Robert Randolph and John Medeski this is exactly what I think of when people use the term supergroup. Meshing together of styles and backgrounds creating a unique brand of music that allows you to get down as it lift’s you up Connecticut based Kung Fu kicked off the evening with a powerful set full of their signature fusion of funk jazz and electronica. After a successful trip down south with huge shows at both the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival as well as Atlanta’s Sweetwater 420 Festival the band seemed full of life, releasing that energy upon the crowd creating an electric set of music.
Delivering fast paced funk driven tunes such as “Scrab” providing fans with a healthy dose of screaming saxophone paired with soulful James brown styled vocals. This tune also offered a filthy drum breakdown lasting several minutes before the band dove back in rounding out the tune. The band then quickly dove into “Tsar Bomba” the title track off their recently released album. This song takes off with a jazzed styled groove flowing beautifully into a more rock based ending filled with scorching guitar work and some extra funky keys. Leading perfectly into set ender “Gung Ho” a song that encompasses all that this band offers. From the spaced out electronic themed key’s and dark growl of a blazing guitar to the ever present thump of a driving bass and drum line this song is “Kung Fu” and brings the crowd to one final peak before ending their set.
This band did their job and then some entertaining the crowd from start to finish bringing up the collective energy of the room tenfold. Look for them to bring their innovative style of funk to a festival near you this summer as they travel the country in support of their new album "Tsar Bomba." With the crowd already buzzing the room began to erupt with joy as Robert Randolph and company make their way on stage. A band who gathers together when their busy touring schedules allow creates a uniquely powerful sound unlike anything else around. Based around an instrument that for many years was unheard outside of the church the sacred steel, (steel guitar) this group takes gospel born music adding layers of funk and soul, to create their own unique sound.
From the start of the evening it was clear that Randolph was the ring leader of this powerful 5 piece, directing the band as they journeyed through this movingly powerful set of glorious gospel tunes as well as their own original music. Much of the music was unfamiliar to me as this was only my second time being fortunate enough to catch these guys however, I did recognize a few tracks of their debut self-titled album “The Word”. The first of being “Joyful Sounds” which displayed the ability of this band to weave through blissful peaks of Steel and electric guitar as Medeski delighted fans with his uncanny ability to make his organ sing. This led the band into the song that first turned “Luther and Chew onto Randolph “Without God” a gospel classic that brought cheers from the crowd as the boy’s displayed their deeply soulful roots. The second tune being “Blood On The Rock” which allowed the band to dirty it up mixing in some rock and bluegrass themed riffs blended delicately within the music. “Joyful Sounds” was also played beautifully, creating an upbeat euphoric jam driving the crowd to peak levels of excitement. Playing the role as leader exceptionally well Randolph was his usual vibrant self, smiling and engaging the crowd with his technical ability as well as his exuberant playing style that found him up and down from his seat all night. At one point even standing on his chair as his fingers slid frantically over his steel guitar. Changing things up Randolph briefly jump on the drums, replacing Cody while he took to the front of the stage with washboard in hand treating the fans to this unique and often unseen treat. Rounding out this killer set of music was a powerful encore that seemed to lift the crowd above and beyond creating pure joy and excitement before the band said their goodbyes making their way off stage. This was an evening that I soon won't forget, from the opening funk filled grooves of Kung Fu straight through to the overwhelmingly beautiful set of spiritually uplifting tunes delivered by “The Word.” Both bands are made up of seasoned professionals all capable of blowing minds at each and every turn making them easily some of the summers much catch acts.
Kung Fu will be playing throughout the summer at several festivals such as Gathering of the Vibes as Well as Catskill Chill as a group and also as part of some special side projects. The North Mississippi Allstars will be making their way overseas for a European tour that should be a nice treat for fans as well as the band. John Medeski will be undoubtedly making several appearances throughout the summer with a much anticipated stop at Lockin’ Music Festival. And Robert Randolph can be found delighting crowds with his band “The Robert Randolph Band” who will be gearing up for a stop Mountain Jam Music Festival at Hunter Mountain in New York.
Information on Kung Fu can be found here on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kungfutunes or on their website here http://www.kungfumusic.com Information on members of The Word can be found bellow Robert Randolph and the Family Band https://www.facebook.com/rrtfb
John Medeski https://www.facebook.com/johnmedeski
The North Mississippi Allstars https://www.facebook.com/nmallstars or http://www.nmallstars.com/
Words: Chason Heins
Photos: Mike Geller
©Grateful Music LLC