Sunday, July 27, 2008

Funk Ecstasy

Fuji Rock 2008: Part 10
The New Mastersounds

Although I’m a great fan of funk, I didn’t know
much about New Mastersounds before Fuji Rock. Somehow they slipped under my groove radar.

But I’m mighty glad I finally caught up with them. Because BOY, was I blown away by these exciting funk geniuses from…Leeds UK!

As they take the stage they are warmly greeted by an expectant crowd and it takes them about two seconds to lay down the slinkiest funk you can imagine. The crowd hardly knows what’s hit them and one minute later everyone is on their feet and tearing it up on the ONE!

NMS bring a whole new freshness to the New Orleans sound, proving that good music is good music, no matter who plays it or where they're from. Guitarist Eddie Roberts underlines this when he observes, “Ah well, Jimi Hendrix had a British band, right?”


Whether it’s from Louisiana or Leeds, it doesn't matter who lays it down. Let's just get it goin' on!

And that's exactly what NMS do for the next hour and a half as they deliver one mind-blowing groove after another.

What a band this is.

Leader Eddie Roberts is one of the best guitar players you’ll ever see. Whether he’s locked into a killer funk rhythm or laying down a tasty solo, the smile on his face tells you he’s in pure funk ecstasy.

Joe Tatton has that classic Hammond sound DOWN, with the occasional tasteful application of echo adding a modern, spacey vibe to his licks.

It goes without saying that you have to be a nuanced, musical drummer to lay down the funk, and Simon Allen is exactly that. He’s fabulous to watch, and when he is locked in with monster bassist Pete Shand - which is all the time - they are , believe you me, RIGHT…ON…THE…MONEY.

There’s plenty of eye contact and joyous smiles passing between the band members. These guys obviously love playing with each other.

During every song, each turnaround and transition is greeted with hysterical whoops of appreciation, and it's easy to see why The New Mastersounds have a strong Japanese following.

Apart from their fabulous music and almost embarrassingly good taste, they are stylish, clean cut, highly professional and coolly retro. They're also an amiable and approachable bunch. Almost the perfect band, really.

I should add that NMS’ astonishing act is no mere homage to the Meters sound. With their roots in DJ culture, they slyly drop elements of acid jazz, hip-hop, dub reggae and trance into the mix, thus maintaining a contemporary edge. But these embellishments are utilized only so far as the limits of good taste will allow, and the band never permit them to dilute their soulful, funky brew.

For their encore, the band plays “the seven-inch version” of their new single, along the way breaking into Sly Stone’s Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin). They’ve been grooving for ninety minutes or more, but the crowd could go on all night.

Don't worry if you missed this stunning performance. NMS are bringing their enthusiastic, honest musicianship back to Japan this coming December. If you love tha funk, you don't wanna miss it.

Fujirockers: Interview

Name: Dale
From: Coventry, UK, living in Kyoto.
Why did you come to Fuji Rock? To hear some great music, enjoy a beautiful part of Japan, and go crazy.
Which artists do you especially want to see? Sparks, Underworld, Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Tricky, Stephen Malkmus, Spoon, Bootsy Collins, Ritchie Hawtin.
What’s the best thing about Fuji Rock? The music, the friendly, mellow vibe, the excellent organization and the girls!

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