Old School Funky Family & Mulvey’s Medicine – The Finsbury – August 19th

It takes something pretty special to get me dancing like a crazed maniac on a Monday night. In fact, I’m hardly known for my weekend strutting and so the sight of me bopping like a bad one early in the working week would have filled the casual bystander of a friend with all sorts of confusion. Fortunately, for me at least, I’m pretty sure that there is no video evidence of my flailing and failing extremities. And besides, it would have looked odder not to be dancing at the Finsbury to the French funk of Old School Funky Family. The whole room was up and at it. It was contagious.

Old School Funky Family are on a short UK tour. You can see that they’ll go down exceptionally well at festivals and it should be of no surprise that the good people of Chai Wallahs have snapped them up for Green Man last weekend and Shambala this. In between, they’re playing shows across the country. Go and see them if you’re going to Shambala or living in Bristol. They will not disappoint. 

In any other town, you’d pay good money to see musicianship of this quality. London continues to confound and delight in equal measure. I realise there’s a ton of competition out there every night but quite how this can be put on as a free show is anybody’s guess. “You’d be happy paying £15 for that”, says a punter, slightly gobsmacked by what he’s just witnessed. And he’s quite right as well.

There’s eight of them crammed onto the Finsbury stage. Brass heavy and brass led, it’s instrumental funk with more than a sprinkling of jazz. They’re from deep in the South of France – and it’s perhaps appropriate, given the nationality, that bass duties are not taken by a guitar but by a French horn. Between each song, one of the troupe takes a microphone and introduces what’s coming next.

At different times in the set, each member of the band gets to delight with an extended solo, to show off their musical pedigree with a spotlight slot. Other members of the band give way sometimes leaving the stage to signal what’s about to occur. In the hands of lesser musicians, such interludes might become little more than elongated wank-fests. But these guys are so talented that it’s always astonishing to watch. The clarinet player particularly impresses in his solo. It begins all seedy, backstreet nightclub (slow and languid) and ends with fireworks (explosive and illuminating). 

Whilst the core of this is jazz-funk, Old School Funky Family can also mix it up. They play a cover but mostly it’s their original compositions. They draw on their proximity to North Africa to charm snakes in one piece and take us on a tour of EDM styles in another. My short attention span never once wanes whilst my legs move; the dynamics on stage providing just enough to maintain interest.

Support act for the night, Mulvey’s Medicine, could learn from this. Indeed, I’m sure they are for many of their seven-strong number are lapping Old School Funky Family up dancing in the front row. Mulvey’s Medicine also indulge in instrumental jazz-funk and do so with fine musicianship. To move on to the next level, I’d politely suggest that they now need to give some thought to their stagecraft. They jam well – and it’s by no means boring to watch – but what might their gimmick be that can set them apart? 

The night (and probably the week) belongs to Old School Funky Family. This was no typical Monday.

Lonnie Storey, Leyma, Jimmi Herbert and Harry Heart – The Finsbury – 19th March 2019

I’m making a conscious decision this week to check out gig venues in London that are new to me.  With some of the more obvious places now ticked off, I head north and to The Finsbury. There’s entertainment in this Manor House pub most nights but for some reason I’ve not considered trekking up here before.

And that’s my loss. This is a busy boozer with a back venue of not inconsiderable space. The stage is raised and the lights good. I can overlook the smoke machine overdosing just after acts take to the stage. For some, I’m sure the haze adds to the atmosphere though for this older man it simply brings on the wheeze.

Harry Heart is on first. It’s just him with an acoustic guitar. He does nothing wrong as such but also nothing to stand out. He’s got a pleasant manner between tunes and we glean that Harry is probably here from Australia. He plays a tune that he ‘normally plays with four other blokes’ and another that he ‘wrote the last time he was in England a few years back’. The voice is a strained Jeff Buckley but, on first listen at least, none of these tunes really stand out. Even when Harry changes his guitar tuning, the songs all pretty much mesh into one. He offers free CDs from a murky merch table, a nice touch from a nice chap.

 

Jimmi Herbert has bought a new band with him. In crueller moments, I wonder if he’s raided his college Dungeons and Dragons after school club to find them. It’s their first gig and they’ll no doubt get better as they perform more together. Jimi, half wearing a floral shirt and with frizzy long hair is every inch the slacker yet his voice and manner is distinctive enough to mark him out. A chilled and laidback jazzy hip-hop, I struggle a bit to get beyond the notion that future single, Purple Pills, sounds like Frank Spencer covering Easy Life. Oooh Betty.

 

Easy Life are a band of the moment and I suspect that Leyma (up next) have also been influenced by their rise. More jazzy-chilled stuff with splashes of hip-hop, there’s an effortless cool about them. Leyma has a deep voice that contrasts well with track-suited Siv on bass. They’ve got a raucous fan base who have come from the East of this city to support. And in tunes such as ‘Extra Extra’ and ‘Smile For A Second’, they’ve got the material to back up the buzz that’s forming around them. Older adults stride around giving direction – managers and advisers one suspects who have promised these young lads fame, glory and celebrity endorsement. An enthusiastic but official photographer takes photos everywhere even jumping on stage and taking pics of Leyma’s set list. Somebody needs to tell him to turn the flash on his camera off. It dazzles like you’ve just been blinded by the sun and ultimately spoils the enjoyment of the unconverted.

 

A track by Rilo Kiley plays in the interlude between Leyma and tonight’s headliner, Lonnie Storey. I recall how much I miss that band.

Lonnie Storey is a charmer. His thing is lo-fi bedroom pop and he does so with the manner of Mac De Marco and the voice of Edwyn Collins. His confidence is understated with more than one tune announced as “being about making a dick out of yourself”. He specialises in crisp, cheesy guitar riffs executed with fine technique as the programmed-synth bleeps and beats away in the background. He tells all that he’s not yet released much but that more will be coming. I like his music and resolve to check out more when it arrives. 

 

I’ve been to some cracking gigs in recent weeks. This one doesn’t perhaps hit the heights of some of those but I’m glad to tick another venue from my London list. I’m sure there’ll be a return in coming weeks