Equifunk V 2012 @ Camp Equinunk – August 17 -19
“We are gonna laugh, jump and shout, so keep the music playin” – Brian J, The Pimps of Joytime
Imagine if one could recapture their youth for one weekend. One would harken back to the loss of innocence, the uninhibited fun and revelry amongst like-minded souls on a summer’s day. This past weekend at Camp Equinunk in the heart of the Poconos, nearly 1000 young adults embarked on a full-throttle summer camp type euphoric experience. With two non-stop days of top quality musical entertainment, a swimming pool with a water slide, exquisite summer weather, endless beer and food, at an all-inclusive price, there was nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile. In its 5th year, original founders Eric and Sara Kamen, now in partnership with 5 others, have improved the Festival exponentially, to an impressive level. The staff was friendly and devoid of any tough-guy security antics prevalent at so many other venues. By all accounts, Equifunk Festival V was a smashing success.
[All Photos by Dino Perrucci]
The “all-inclusive Festival” that Hidden Track once dubbed the “Anti-festival”, because at a reasonable price, Equifunk offers every Festival necessity their bigger and ultimately more expensive rivals promise. With 24 sets mostly rooted in the funk genre, performed by 19 different acts over 2 days on 3 stages with no over-lapping sets, the avid concert-goer grows fully satiated with a superior funkadelic musical explosion. The accommodations split between the Equinunk Cabins located on the main campground and the Blue Ridge cabins located nearby across a quaint wooden walking bridge overlooking a glistening lake that offered spectacular sunrises and sunsets on one’s way to and from music. Equifunk is not simply an excuse for debauchery like its brethren, as activities such as a pick-up softball game, 3 on 3 basketball, yoga and a pool party complete with a water slide bustled with energetic attendees. A menu consisting of a varied selection for different tastes was included in the reasonable price as was the unlimited amount of Coors Light draft beer. If one felt hunger pains late night, offerings included pizza and grilled cheese.
Friday’s Musical Highlights
Pimps of Joytime / 8:30pm-10:00pm / E-Rena Stage
The Pimps of Joytime are that band one so immediately falls in love with their energetic and funky dance party grooves that one is immediately torn: you can’t wait to share your discovery to impress your friends that you found them first, but you also consider not telling a soul so it can remain your secret. POJ are a funk-laden, soul-shakedown machine guaranteed to turn any curmudgeon into a laid-back hipster within moments of catching the first beat. A multi-ethnic band mirrors the genre-transcending rhythms and lyrics that only prove this band will soon be the ultimate party experience complete with bombastic bass thumping, heavy beats and a recurring phat jam that gets the blood pumping and shoes kicking up the air. Composed, articulate and driven, band leader Brian J epitomizes the type of cool cat mirrored within his music. Although his style could easily supersede substance, it only adds fuel to the fire and completes a sound concert-going experience. Although the similarities will draw endless comparisons, modest Brian J didn’t abhore the moment the discussion turned to the Purple One, “I don’t mind being compared to Prince, although it’s a bit silly to do so with an icon in that talent stratosphere.” Someday soon, we may be talking about Brian J and the Pimps in a similar manner, as they bask in success; they have the talent and they are starting the ascent.
Setlist: Brooklyn Midnite, Joytime Radio, Take These Blues, L Train>Blues with You, Janxta, San Francisco Bound, Keep That Music Playin, Stop Wastin
Dumpstaphunk / 10:00pm-11:45pm / E-Rena Stage
Not surprisingly, a band with the healthy reputation of being one of the greatest funk outfits, again delivered a funktastic set filled with nasty bass lines and dirty guitar riffs dripping with soulful vocals and infused with the strong keyboards of Ivan Neville. With their brilliant performances at Bonnaroo and Peach Fest as a reference, I anticipate Dumpsta to be a highlight whenever I see them. The veteran band from New Orleans brings an unprecedented level of slick coolness that not many can compete with. Dirty Word captivated the crowd and the cover of David Bowie’s Fame again demonstrated the prowess of a funk outfit that can make any tune their own.
Setlist: Deeper, Everbody Want Sum, Sheez Music, Dirty Word, Fame>Dumpsta, Lt Dan, Meanwhile…, Funk with A Big Foot, Water
Sucker Punch / 1:00am-2:30am / E-Rena Stage
Like Cream, Asia or The Word, as a Super Group, Sucker Punch’s first performance in nine years created a serious buzz and lofty expectations. Sucker Punch has been defunct so long a Google search proves futile. The all-star line-up was composed of Disco Biscuits’ Marc “Brownie” Brownstein (bass) and Aron Magner (keys), New Deal’s Jamie Shields (keys) and Lotus’ Mike Greenfield (drums). The band was very deliberate getting ready and building up momentum during Solstice until finding a groove and working it for a very extended jam. The crowd packed the old gymnasium, which doubled as a concert hall, for the late night show promoted by Live For Live Music, and pushed up close in an attempt to see their collection of livetronica heroes. Although not as dynamic as a Biscuits show or as complete with bombastic jams as Conspirator, the band delivered the goods enough to have any fan of the genre spinning in euphoric space enjoying the afterglow. Most notable was that Jamie Shields played New Deal songs for the first time since the band’s break up earlier this year.
Setlist: Solstice (in dub), Denmark Massive , Lunar Pursuit, Home (tnd) E : Macina Verde
Saturday’s Musical Highlights
Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds / 2:00pm-3:00pm / Pool Stage
One of the Brooklyn-based bands at the Festival, Sister Sparrow again demonstrated why they have been repeatedly acclaimed as “the band on the verge” over the past five years. Brother/sister pairing Jackson (guitar/harmonica) and Arleigh Kincheloe (lead vocals), spearhead a powerful nine-piece ensemble through a raucous deluge of passion. A women small in stature, Arleigh has a monster voice that can alternate from sweet to an even more effective pouncing growl as she belts out soulful R&B ala Janis Joplin. When I asked Arleigh what musician she would want to play in a movie she responded, “Bonnie Raitt. I respect her as a complete artist.” For someone renowned to be as sexy a front woman as Arleigh, one could only respect her for choosing a great talent known for more than aesthetics. She continued to explain why she liked performing with her brother, “I trust him, but we also know each other so well, we can sometimes complete each other’s musical thoughts.” As I witnessed at Bonnaroo, and if the crowd response at Equifunk is any indication, SS&TDB are ready and ripe to move up the next level to stardom.
Setlist: Intro A, Untie My Shoelaces, Millie Mae, Make It Rain, Freight Train, Boom Boom, Hollow Bones, Dirt Lasso, Too Much, Boogie Man
Orgone / 4:00pm-5:00pm / Pool Stage + 11:30pm-12:30am / E-Rena Stage
Robert Hunter, lyricist of the Grateful Dead, wrote, “If the thunder don’t get you, then the lightning will.” Well, in a similar vein, if lead singer Nicki Crawford’s raw sexuality, voice or smile don’t convince you Orgone is the best band you’ve never heard, then let Sergio Rios’ guitar chops will certainly draw you into the mesmerizing orgasmic experience. The veteran LA-based band has been keeping an endless tour schedule for over a decade, but has witnessed an explosion of attention and adulation in the past year with the addition of new lead singer. Crawford, who once played “Joanne” in the Broadway production of Rent, oozes with talent yet remains one of the humblest performers I’ve met, despite her successes. When asked what musician she would play in a movie, she immediately retorted, “Whitney Houston.” The beauty of her response is that she could pull that off. The only band to have two announced sets at the Fest, Orgone definitely left as the most talked about band as they overwhelmed many new listeners, delighting with their very striking dynamic delivery of contagious disco funk and old school R&B with a high-energy this hard-working band delivers in droves.
Set One: Nautilus, Open Seasons, Break in the Road, Funky Nassau, Don’t Stop, Sophisticated Honky, It’s Serious, Who Knows Who, Give it Up, Ain’t no Use
Set Two: Second Set Main, Ronin>Feliz>Vigilante, Rock me Again, Say Goodbye, Strike, Hambone, Sabi, Cynthy, Love Maker, Cosmic Slop
Main Squeeze / 5:00pm-6:00pm / Pool Stage / 4:00am-?? / Social Hall
The Main Squeeze pulled you in with subtleness, jabbed away at you with their intense approach to soulful tunes and eventually won you over to such a degree that you not only caught every moment of their afternoon set, but stayed up until 6am to catch the secret show that concluded the festival on Saturday night. The deep musings by a quality band of musicians, adept at a myriad of genres including funk, soul and jam music, supplements the obvious brilliance of lead singer Corey Frye. With natural ability and nuance, Frye approaches songs differently than any other and delivers a note or tone that seemingly only he can. Despite respectful originals that motivated many to get funky, and covers like an absolutely stellar Bohemian Rhapsody, it was his rendition of Eyes of the World that ultimately won many of us over, arguably proving to be vocally superior to the original. The Main Squeeze are definitely one to watch.
Set One: Ebaneezer, Mama told me, Colorful Midst>Dr.Funk>Shakedown street>Came to do Jam>Grow, Where do we go, (E) Bohemian Rhapsody
Set Two: Hottentot, Mixed up, Devil was an Angel, Funky Bitch, I’ll take another, Trouble, Silly Vices>Suck my kiss>Vices>Spines>2001>Eyes of the World>2001,Last Call, Whipping Post
Turkuaz / 7:30pm-9:00pm / Pool Stage
This Brooklyn-based nine-piece band, comprised of many graduates from Berklee School of Music, is a funk tour deforce. A whirlwind romp and non-stop energetic frenzy led by the fat funky bass lines from top-hatted bassist, Taylor Shell, who sets the table for front man David Brandwein to lead the ensemble as they pounce through one head-bobbing explosion after another. There is no weak link in a diverse and equally talented ensemble. The three-piece horn section exudes a pleasantly forceful brass bombing while background vocalists Lisa and Geneva consistently dance with purpose demonstrating their uncanny ability to convince us to forget their beauty while attacking vocals with such angled perfection and jaw-dropping determination. The highlight was saxophone player, Josh Schwartz, taking the audience on a surprise funky excursion with a nasty, bouncy cover of The Band’s The Shape I’m In which ignited a fan frenzy. Turkuaz is the band you tell your friends you know, cognizant that they don’t, as they are guaranteed to fall in love with them like everyone else does upon first impression.
Setlist: Future 86, Electric Habitat, The Shape I’m In, TV, Chatte Lunatique, The Mountain, Everyone’s a Winner, Snap Your Fingers, Hold On, I’m Coming, Crosseyed and Painless, Lookin’ Tough, Feelin’ Good
Bustle in Your Hedegrow / 10:00pm-11:00pm / E-Rena Stage
Another super group, Bustle consists of Marco Benevento (keys), Scott Metzger (guitar-Wolf!/RANA), Joe “The Madness” Russo (drums-Furthur) and Dave Dreiwitz (bass-Ween). For most jam band aficionados at the funk festival, this band was the headlining act. As they have demonstrated over recent years, this instrumental Led Zeppelin cover band meshes into a forceful unit that attacks and dissects the Zeppelin classics in a way that is very accessible by and addictive to the audience. Each accomplished band mate showcased their unique talent, but it is Benevento who demonstrates that his take on the piano improvisation is something to sit back and behold with awe. Some would even advocate that this representation of Zep’s classics are more satisfying than the original, as the instrumental renditions allow one to focus their ears solely on the signature extendended jams, rather than on an overbearing vocal. Slightly disappointed I didn’t again witness their genius take on Fool in the Rain, but Over The Hills… was crackling with explosive radiant energy and another highlight occurred when the legendary Stanton Moore of Galactic sat in with the band behind Russo’s drum kit.
Setlist: Wearing And Tearing, What Is And What Should Never Be, Over The Hills And Far Away, Wonton Song, Dazed And Confused, Were Gonna Groove, Down By The Seaside, Lemon Song, Song Remains The Same
Galactic / 1:00-3:30am / E-Rena Stage
Late night after hours of musical acts, Galactic finally took the stage and delivered the kind of performance worthy of their headliner billing. The longtime funkmeisters out of NOLA have been on a tear of late including a buzz-worthy closing of the first night of All Good. With the addition of former Living Colour frontman, Corey Glover, as lead singer since 2010, the band has a more varied sound. The dichotomy of different experiences is astounding when the band plays with Glover and without within a show. The traditional funk-laden full band experience without vocals provides an exquisite dance rager with greater breadth of scope, but on this night Glover was a man on fire. His soulful passionate delivery accentuated a night of pure energy from the entire band. Another random highlight was Joe Russo, dressed in a bunny costume, sat-in on drums next to Stanton Moore. One of Galactic’s founders and bassist, Robert Mercurio, summed up Galactic’s current success, “All the cities seem to be equally excited to have us. It’s a good time to be busy playing music”, before detailing to me their impending 20 city tour before hitting NOLA for a special Halloween show and the album that is in the works.
Setlist: Karate, I’m Tired, You Don’t Know, Hey Na Na, Kashmir, Buckit Like a Horse, Total Destruction, Going Down, Crazy Horse,Lonely Town,Cult of Personality, Bakers Dozen, Heart of Steel, (E) Sympathy For the Devil
After an intensely stimulating 44 hours at a Festival, one was forced to leave the premises by noon on Sunday. Just like at summer camp, one was happy about the memories created during the majestic adventures and experiences, but sad to say Goodbye to new friends. As time passes, we reacclimate to our regular everyday city life, only to bask again in the warmth of the day we can return. Equifunk is a model of how a Festival should be run. Niki Crawford of Orgone demanded, “Rock me again, again and again” – and I look forward to returning each and every year to Equifunk: the ideal place to get rocked again, again and again.
Here’s a full gallery of Dino’s unbelievable photos from Equifunk…