For me, last week was filled with anticipation for the Foundation of Funk show on Thursday at the Rex. Neal Evans and Eric Krasno teamed up with original Meters members, Zigaboo Modeliste and George Porter Jr. for a five-city mini-tour. Surprisingly (and fortunately) one of the stops was right here in Pittsburgh, PA. Foundation of Funk is a Meters-themed project all the way. And even though I really dig The Meters and their brand of swampy New Orleans funk, the appeal of this show for me rested much more heavily on the Soulive side of the group, i.e. Neal Evans and Kraz.
It’s been a few years since I’ve last seen Soulive perform. I think the last time was probably at the Rex a few years ago with DJ Logic opening. It was around the time that they released their Beatles cover album, Rubber Soulive (2010). So the FoF show got me feeling nostalgic for the time that I was first introduced to the young trio (Neal Evans, Eric Krasno, and drummer Alan Evans) and those few years when they were my favorite band on the planet.
The first time I saw Soulive perform live was sometime in 2000. I’m pretty sure it was the first annual Jammy Awards at Irving Plaza in New York. After one performance, I was hooked. Their first release on Velour Records entitled Turn It Out, which remains in my top ten of all time list, entered into steady rotation, I saw the group play as many times as I could, and I acquired as many live shows on CD-R as I could get my hands on. Something about these guys and their music just clicked with me immediately. It was the perfect mix of high-energy funk, soul, groove, jazz, and even a touch of hip-hop. I had grown disenchanted with most of the jamband scene that had sucked me in a few years prior and I had started to revisit some of the hip-hop I had loved in my youth (i.e. groups like A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Digable Planets, Snoop Dogg, etc). It was also around this time that I had begun to dip my feet into the world of jazz and Soulive turned me on to all kinds of things like Grant Green, Herbie Hancock, Lou Donaldson, etc, etc, etc. which led to the endless rabbit hole that I’m still falling into to this day.
Over the years, Soulive experimented with their sound by adding an array of horns and vocalists to varying degrees of success. In my opinion, they got slightly off track a bit possibly in an attempt for more mainstream appeal. Whether this was their choice or their record label’s, I certainly can’t blame them for trying to make some money and/or to keep things fresh from their perspective. But for me, it was all about the trio. Some memorable performances, among many, for me from the early period were shows at South Burlington, VT’s Higher Ground, which was one of the first full length shows of theirs I attended, a trio set at the All Good Festival in 2004, and an unforgettable experience at The Tralf in Buffalo, NY in 2002. It was at this show that I had the opportunity to meet the band as well as Neal and Alan’s mother (and sister?), who were all extremely kind and enthusiastic. I was a HUGE fan at the time, so this was a big moment for me. Here’s a pic of one of Alan’s broken snare drum heads that I asked the band to sign.
Now, getting back to the Foundation of Funk show, I have to say that despite having a great time, I was slightly let down to hear not one Soulive tune. Going into this, I knew that this was going to be two original members of The Meters playing Meters’ songs with two of the standout younger funk players on the current scene. Having said that, I still held out hope that by this third night of the tour, they’d start to come together to perform as more of a group of equals and that this would open up a wider variety of song choices. I knew this would not sound like Soulive or Lettuce (the two bands Krasno and Evans are a part of), but I think subconsciously, I was itching for some of that vibe.
But, I certainly did have a blast and these guys all sounded incredible. I was really glad they made Pittsburgh one of the five stops on this short tour. It’s nice to get a chance to see the legends do their thing because they won’t be around forever. I shot a short video of The Meters’ most famous tune “Cissy Strut” as shown above. My storage was full, hence cutting off Kraz’s guitar solo. But fortunately, someone in the back of the room managed to film and post the entire show which you can check out here. Enjoy!