John Tierney

Long Winded - Short Attention Span

Putting the FUNK in your WAFFLES – West End Blend w/s/g Roxy Roca 10/18/17

It was a night for charismatic lead singers.  It was a night for slamming horn sections doing that horn section dancing they do.  It was a night for funky bass lines and guitars.  It was a night for keyboards that would make Billy Preston proud.   It was a night for funk.  It was a night for soul.

It was a night where the floor should have been packed and shaking under the feet of dancing music lovers vibing off the groove being laid down by two, world class, extraordinarily talented and hard working bands.

It was a night were people walking by should have tried to peer through steamy windows, throwing neon light into the street to see what was making that beautiful noise inside and some might have said to companions, “lets go in, this looks too good to miss.”

It was too good to miss and except for about 25 appreciative people, Syracuse missed it.   Syracuse blew it again.

For all our boasting about Syracuse getting its groove back and being in the midst of a renaissance, which I do believe is true, It’s too bad Syracuse can be such a shitty music town sometimes because these national touring bands, West End Blend and Roxy Roca would have been better served by the town, by being able to do their thing in front of a couple hundred sweaty people dancing instead of the two dozen or so that turned up for a midweek show at Funk n Waffles last night.

Are you telling me we couldn’t double that crowd, get 50 people in for a party on a beautiful fall evening?  I’m not asking for a sell out here.

Yeah, a midweek show.  So what?  Was TV all that interesting?  The show started around 8 and was over a little after 11.  You can’t pull off a late night once in a while?  I’m older than most concert goers and I went to the show, and was still able to get up for work at 5AM.  Could I do this every day?  Of course not, but once in a while I can get my old, tired ass out and support live music in this city.  Why don’t you?

I don’t know how to fix this really, I don’t put the blame solely on a unmotivated populace, not entirely.

There is absolutely NO media support for music here, unless it’s a country act at the Amphitheater or something at the NY State Fair. Our own hometown “newspaper” had it’s music writer, who is very good for what it’s worth,  moderating a mayoral election debate while this show was happening.   if you browsed local media to see what is going on in town on a given night, you would find nothing and that’s too bad, because there is a lot going on right under Syracuse’s collective nose.   So if the media won’t help, I guess we all just have to do it on our own.  Hence this post and in many ways, this blog.

Of course, this is nothing  new in this town.  The Pretenders playing to a half empty bar.  U2 playing to a half filled gymnasium.  I was once the ONLY person in the audience of a Sarah Harmer show.

Syracuse is gonna Syracuse.

Whatever hometown,  I had a great time.  Netflix and Matlock can wait.

I’m gonna shake my shit once in a while.  I wanna see what dances other people are doing and show off a few of my own.  That’s just how I am built, maybe it’s just me.

Nothing lifts your soul like live music.  And this was a night for elevation.   If the city disappointed with it’s  own laziness, the musicians on that stage sure didn’t.

Roxy Roca kicked off the night with their Texas by way of  Memphis soul.  Taye Cannon  is a dynamic front man and a total pro and turns out a hell of a nice guy.  When the opening number was plagued by a microphone problem he smoothly and with a debonair way that only a blue eyed soul singer can do, grabbed another from one of his bandmates and hit the next line without losing a beat.  You don’t get that smooth without practice and these guys are road tested.  Playing 200 dates a night delivering that classic sound with a band that the word “tight” was invented for.

Cannon’s voice is the kind of sound you might get if you mixed Delbert McClinton with a touch of Tom Waits growl.  Moving across the stage with moves worthy of the great James Brown while delivering songs about love and the dark side of love.  Songs about Gut Checks, times when a man has to reevaluate.

Roxy Roca even took time to pay tribute to the late great soul legend Charles Bradley who recently passed away, they know and honor the influences that formed their dynamic sound.

I could have listened to these guys all night, but this was the OPENING band.  OPENING!  I can only imagine how a band this hot can get when there is an engaged crowd to allow the spark presented to catch fire.  Roxy Roca however put on a hard working, professional show for an appreciative but passive audience.  I would have loved to hear “Love Maker Deville” so I am really hoping for another shot at seeing these guys.  I hope they come back soon and I hope we can show up a little better than we did.  Because Roxy Roca is legit.

I have wanted to see West End Blend for a while now and I keep missing them.  That was stupid of me.  I can assure you I won’t be missing them again because they hit me right in my funky soul wheelhouse.  When this band from Hartford takes the stage they explode in a joyful expression of celebration.  If you are a fan of the criminally underappreciated Brand New Heavies, like I am, then you sort of have the picture.  8 pieces on stage, twin funky guitars, a bass groove like no other, a MADMAN on keys, a two piece horn section that has moves like you couldn’t believe and a vocalist in Erica Bryan with a voice that will cause you to stand slack jawed at the power of it.    Erica Bryan is a FORCE, a perpetual motion machine be it dancing or hitting a tambourine, the woman never stops moving, never stops smiling,  but I guess she has to keep up with that horn section of John Mundy and Mike Bafundo  who can shake it with the best of them.    At one point everyone on the stage was jumping.

West End Blend is a party.  The fact that their song “Smile” isn’t a global hit single is beyond my ability to understand but  the band played it, note perfect as the second song of the set.

They featured new songs from their upcoming album Attitude, like “The Workout” and “Too Heavy”  which I can’t WAIT to get my hands on plus some older songs I love like “Say Hey” which features the dual vocals of Bryan and horn player  Bafundo with his blues like growl .

I especially loved the cover of my favorite Prince song, “Controversy” complete with slamming solos and the “people call me rude” mantra.   Anyone who does this song, this well, with credibility like this, is a band I am going to see every chance I get.  So should you.

Like all good funk/soul bands every player brings it, every night, the guitars of Jesse Combs and Mike Dipanfilo compliment each other perfectly, while one takes a lead, the other keeps that funky rhythm going sometimes it was hard for me to keep track of who was playng what, they are so good and so seamless on how they work together.

The rhythm section of Sam Horan (drums) and Tom Sullivan (bass) keep the essetial back beat even throwing a little drum solo in the mix.   Make no mistake, the secret weapon of West End Blend is keyboard wizard Paulie Philippone, this guy is like Bernie Worrell up there on those things.  The thing about funky keys is, you have to let it all go while at the same time maintaining the structure of the beat.  Paulie Philippone is a master of this art.  Make sure you check him out  if you get to see this band, don’t let him be hiding back there behind the keys.

The crowd got warmer and started to move a bit for West End Blend but I would love to see these guys play to a packed house full of energy and let this band  just tear  the place apart.

That’s how good they are.  Ya shoulda been there.

Both bands are playing at Funk N Waffles in Rochester tonight 10/19, lets hope the flower city steps up where the salt city didn’t.  These performers deserver it.



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1 Comment

  1. great review !

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