Written by Paige Muller
The funk mothership landed at Tropicalia on Thursday night for the Funk Parade Kickoff Jam. The event served as a preview of what to expect at this year’s Funk Parade, which will take place on May 6, and as a fundraiser for the festival. Hosted by Dior Ashley Brown, D.C. musicians Reesa Renee, Alex Vaughn (with special guest Odd Mojo) and Joe Keyes and the Late Bloomer Band had the audience dancing to lush R&B melodies, soul-deep sounds from the jazz and gospel era, and polyrhythmic grooves that had the floors and walls shaking.
For Renee, the Kickoff Jam was the first stop after her set at SXSW. “It was important to come back and get fed by the culture that birthed me and get some of that energy back,” she said. “Representing at Austin was great, but organizations like the Funk Parade and One Love Massive need our support and love to continue to give this city its heart and soul.” Her impassioned performance had an infectious energy, elevating the Kickoff Jam’s solid night of music. Vaughn’s performance was also just as impressive, with a smooth R&B sound that nods to an early ’90s aesthetic but also feels refreshing and contemporary.
Funk Parade veteran Keyes and the Late Bloomer Band closed out the show, which included P-Funk drummer Benjamin “Benzel” Baltimore. With a soulful, raspy voice, frontman, poet and band conductor Keyes took the crowd to church, delivering an euphorically entertaining stage show blending funk, jazz and rock that preached positivity, living your best life and “embracing the booty.”
The Kickoff Jam was a night of celebration, community and joy, which is what the Funk Parade itself is all about. As Keyes said during his band’s set, “Music is the answer.”