Opening acts are usually put in place to work-up the crowd and get things started before the headliners take to the stage. They are typically what people don’t buy tickets for, unless their schedules permit it. At smaller gigs, I’ve seen people skipping the “openers” and arriving only in time to watch the main act. However, ignoring them may sometimes be a regrettable blunder. Thankfully, on the 11th of February, before Frank’s Got the Funk (FGTF) started with their set at Kyra, I was at the venue right on time to watch Stuck In November (SIN).
Most of Stuck In November’s compositions are typical of a post-Rock set-up: no vocals, extensive instrumental portions with contrasting and harmonized guitars, and prudent use of distortion and affected sounds. Their music ranges from dark, moody, elevating, and melodic to treacherously rocky, but it never misses the essence of the genre.
Nihal and Arjun on guitars and Kuldip on bass demonstrated typical post-Rock synchronizations, tunes and chord progressions. It almost seemed like their music had some mystical undercurrents, because just two songs into the gig, the listeners could be seen swaying their heads, eyes closed as if in a state of trance. Mayur proved to be the star of the evening – his meticulous drumming made most of the songs meander and gradually evolve, build and finally explode. I am a sucker for 16th and 32nd notes on the high-hat, and sometimes at a BPM of 100-150 he displayed brilliance and dexterity, and I haven’t even begun to talk about the roaring drum-rolls and soul-stirring crashes! Mayur kept jolting the listeners constantly with some brilliant and unpredictable punches on his drums, although the volume on the drums made the sound just a notch heavier than the majority of post-Rock bands (or maybe it was just the acoustics in Kyra).
SIN did not talk interact with the crowd at all, but the listeners did not complain – their music seemed to speak for them. Their performance lasted for just about 35 minutes which seemed to fly by quite fast, but it defined the off-the-wall genre that they represent, very closely. With this opening act they deserve to have won over new fans for themselves and for the genre.
Frank’s Got the Funk did not waste any time once they were handed over the stage. After a little humorous interaction with the crowd, they started their set with ‘The Funk is Back’. Thereafter, the band played all the songs from their debut album +he Nex+ Level, and also covered Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstitious‘. The tracks ‘Dynamite’ and ‘Frank’s Got The Funk’ seemed to be the most popular and even had people from the audience demanding for them! When the band obliged, there was a lot of singing-along, jumping-around, and head-banging that ensued, so I reckoned that FGTF has a considerable number of listeners who don’t just listen to their songs, but listen to them regularly enough to remember the lyrics and sing them word to word!
The keyboard solo on ‘Dynamite’ was thrilling and the rhythm guitar created a nice harmony. On ‘Cop Chase’, the riffs pepped up the mood, and the guitar solo towards the end was indeed reminiscent of a fast-paced car-chase scene! This song is mischievous in lyrical content, and indulgent in orchestration. ‘Fast Song’ began with a superb keyboard solo, which was not just dark in selection of tones and tune, but was also the backbone of this enjoyable track. It complemented the guitars fabulously. ‘FGTF’ has remarkable keyboards and guitars solos. This is FGTF’s signature track. ‘Old man’ has a catchy chord progression and the harmony with keys reminded me distantly of Wolfmother‘s ‘Joker and a Thief’. The tone for the lead may be a crafty tweak, the power chords seem exactly the same, and just the pattern sounds different. There’s this imaginary character ‘Frank’ whose incoherent story is being narrated in five songs on their album. But the band did not talk about it at all, so a beginner would still have to read some of their interviews and listen to them closely enough to figure that out.
FGTF’s funk is a convergence of funk, and hard/alternative/punk rock. Bjorn’s vocals are powerful and consistent, though he tends to get a tad nasal at times. Sajith’s bass is as good as a funk band has to get, though with the unfairly amplified drums at Kyra that day, it was hard to spot the bass-line sometimes. Vikram Ashok’s keyboard is pretty much the backbone of not just a few tracks, but of the band itself. It ranges from delivering a soulful punch to a psychedelic tickle. Merwyn is quite accomplished with his lead guitar and is equipped with an analog processing pod, but he doesn’t over-indulge himself in the harmony, and lets the keys lead him most of the times. Shashank’s drumming is funky to begin with – great pocketing and outstanding double kick. It may sound like deceiving the genre at some points, but is carefully grounded. He occasionally decorates the sound with jazz type fills, combined with rock style licks, but never misses the framework of a funk-rock groove. In totality, this five-member band from Chennai looks promising. They have already released an album, and are playing the circuit extensively. I hope they come up with more original work soon (a second album, perhaps), so that their gigs last longer, and fans have a lot more to relish!
Overall, both the bands offered a delightful contrast – Stuck In November created an atmosphere of trance, and FGTF gave a performance that made for a nice adrenaline rush. While one had calming textures and timbres, the other had jolting rhyme and rhythm. One vamped like masters, while the other riffed like pros. With a convergence of Jazz, Rock, Ambient, and Electronica on one side, and a potpourri of Funk, progressive Rock, and Alternative on the other, watching these two bands play live one after the other, would be a treat for any connoisseur of genres.