How The Funk Hunters Brought “Home” To Us
August 18th, 2012. It is Just after midnight. I am walking through a cavernous path in the Pacific Northwest made up of tremendously large Douglas Fir Trees. I am not alone. There are more then 10,000 of us on a farm nestled in amongst one of a thousand valleys in the Kootenay mountain range of British Columbia. We walk between five custom built, immersive 3-D stages/environments equipped with technology that can amplify music, particularly at low frequencies, louder and clearer then any before it in human history. Our costumes matched the absurdity and unlikelihood of the reality we are experiencing against the infinite scale of the cosmos. Although, most of us were beginning to realize that the very nature of infinity implies that our reality is, was, and will be inevitable.
As I flow and dance with the current of people happily along this path towards The Fractal Forest to see the Funk Hunters play their 3rd annual set on that stage, a couple on the side of the path sitting on a wooden bench that was cleverly built into a wide trunk of a tree makes eye contact and signals me over. It was my third night at Shambhala and I knew that an important part of the experience requires never ignoring an invitation. The couple were sharing a blanket and looked like they had been taking a rest, probably from long hours of dancing timelessly in bliss. As I approached all of us began to smile and immediately after introducing ourselves one of them said to me “Thank you for bringing everything you bring to the table. This party would be a lot less awesome without you.”
Explosions of gratitude and a sense-of-self, others, and the entire fucking universe flowed through my being as I digested what they had just done to me with nothing but the use of simple and genuine words. As this symphonious blast of harmony passed, I noticed them watching me and it was clear that they got as much out of watching it happen as I did having it happen. I tried to muster up a thank you in words but none seemed powerful enough, so we looked at each other and that was all that was needed. I continued on my way down the current looking for someones mind to blow.
March. 8th, 2014. The Funk Hunters are co-headlining a show with Delhi 2 Dublin at the Commodore Ballroom on Granville Street in Vancouver. It has been raining all night but there isn’t much that could stop the sold out crowd from getting to the venue. If you’ve spent longer then a week in Vancouver and are at least trying to contribute meaningfully to the progression of humanity, then you know that Granville’s “entertainment district” is about as fun as a literal barrel of monkeys and a free drink ticket you got for taking out your phone and saying you like a promotion on facebook. Except for the occasional booking at a few of the clubs and The Commodore, Granville is generally to be avoided.
As I stepped off the street and walked up the stairs into the potent mixture of the palpable energy coming from the crowd and the rich, distinguished history of the room I started to realize that tonight was going to be momentous. We did a walk around the venue to get our bearings before finding a nice booth off to the side with a good view of the stage over everyones head.
Delhi 2 Dublin brought what felt like the energy of a masterful house set, layering build ups further then what seemed rhythmically possible and tantalizing the heart of the crowd, making them literally jump for more. But imagine this feeling coming from the pounding sounds of a variety of classic and uncommon instruments, most notably a Dohl drum and a Sitar, in what can only be described as world-fusion-jump-around music. I remember looking around wondering what it meant that a room this cool was getting off so hard on world music.
After the monumental applause for Delhi 2 Dublin there was 10 minutes of dimmed lights with purple accents around the room, and the low, repeating sound of what an electrical current would sound like if it was oscillating slowly. It was perfect. This was going to be a performance and 15 minutes of music in between sets was not necessary to distract us from the anticipation. No, we fed on the anticipation. It quickly became apparent that the room was about to explode – It felt like everyone knew what was coming but nobody knew what to expect.
Then it started, sounding like the intro to a psychedelic, bluesy, rock song. Building forward beautifully until a man in an orange blazer and backwards ball cap stepped forward with a trumpet and, I imagine, laid out a spine tapping and woefully lonely solo, but I had to imagine this because the mic wasn’t on. Whether the solo was as good as the one I heard in my head or not is something I will never know – which is a testament to the strength of the vision of the music.
The band rolled past the technical mistake gracefully and professionally with 7-8 musicians on stage for another half hour playing mostly originals, greasing the crowd up for a half hour wet and glitchy sauce fest of funk that is the kind of stuff the Funk Hunters built their foundations on. The vibe transitioned smoothly from performance to party and that was when I noticed the current again. The same one that brought me to the couple on the bench at Shambhala two years prior. It’s an indescribable force of massive proportions that can only be created by a group of people getting together and sharing a moment without any apprehension, guilt, or remorse. You can literally walk through current and see any of those 3 things poking holes in it and resisting it. After a few years on the west coast you can learn a lot about where somebody is at by watching them move through a crowd of dancing people.
I rode the current in a sea of smiles and high fives until I was struck by a beautiful woman in a neon pink 5 panel hat dancing to the music like she had been riding the current for centuries. I asked her if she would like to trade hats, knowing that mine was a 5 panel too and we’d probably look pretty good. She hesitated and withdrew, and after a brief exchange I learned that the hat had been signed by one of the most powerful and smooth voices in hip hop history – Chali 2na. The hat meant a lot and she did not want to lose it. As I tried to show my appreciation and understanding of her explanation, we both heard Chali’s voice come through the speakers. Both of us were slightly shocked by the coincidence and all we could do was smile and hug. Serenicity (Se-re-n-ici-ty: The significance of Synchronicity combined with the benefit of Serendipity) is one of the best indicators of being in this current.
If a dance floor doesn’t have a thin layer of sexuality over it then you probably aren’t listening to funk, and thus the current guided me towards what was another striking individual in a group of dancing people that glowed with warmth. Timidly I danced behind them basking in it, unsure of how to make myself known to them. Sometimes beauty can be intimidating and I was beginning to lose my nerve as the song came to an end. Then a voice came into my head (from the speakers, you hippy) and informed us that the next track would be the Funk Hunters unreleased collaboration with DubFX called “Don’t give up”. Well, I didn’t really have a choice after that, there were forces in action that were bigger then me and my only options were to let go and act now or resist forever. As the song began to build I tapped one of them on the shoulder and she turned to face me, leaning heavily on the self confidence that I had maintained from that moment with the strangers outside the fractal forest, I met her eye and offered to put my lengthy, beige beaded necklace around her. As luck would have it, she accepted. From there we danced for the rest of the song in a way that felt like a satisfying mix of a pat on the back and a really good hug. She offered my beads back and I let the current take me, this time with a deep satisfaction that only the sense of closure on a beautiful moment shared with another human being can give you.
As I slide through the bouncing dance floor involuntarily shaking my hips, I find myself yet again near the person with the pink hat. This time I know exactly what to do as I approach her and offer her my beads. She wears them appreciatively and after a moment of thought, offers me her hat.
The show finished with all of the band members on stage in one of those applauses that you can feel. The kind that makes the house lights seem brighter. Every musician on stage took their moment and the room fed it back to them tenfold.
This last weekend something important happened at the Commodore. The festival ideology, the vibe that countless numbers of awakening individuals will drive for days and spend hundreds of dollars to get themselves close to, the one that so many call “home”, was brought to Granville street. The source was right there for us all to touch, and we could take the skytrain home. Musicians that got their start in our secluded, temporary, and distant utopias stood on the same stage as Stevie Ray Vaughan.
This is a massive cultural victory for us. If the west coast bass music culture and everything that goes with it can continue to grow and evolve at the rate that it has been, we will not only make a difference in the world, we will be the difference in the world. The song of humanity is an orchestral piece and we all have a part to play, all you have to do is find your instrument.
And if you don’t think the world could use a little difference, give your head a shake right now and get a Facebook account.
The Funk Hunters “Big” Interview Part. 2 with B & K
BC’s Funk Hunters are 24/7 KILLING IT and we sat down with them at Ineo Studios to talk about their collaborations in Australia with living legend Dub FX and trace the roots of the duo back to their first meeting on Gabriola Island.
Huge thanks to Will Miller, The Funk Hunters and are kick ass film crew for making this epic interview happen! Betty and Kora LOVE YOU!
xo B and K