It was just a typical warm summer night in Asheville when all of a sudden the crowd at New Mountain Theater heard a robot voice ask them them, “Can you feel it coming in the air tonight?” After he finished a particularly lengthy go at “The Getdown”, lead vocalist and guitarist Mark Hempe moved to the keys and talk box. The room was still vibrating, resonating and dripping in funk ever since the moment the show began. The roar of approval was exactly what New Orleans prog-funk band Earphunk were looking for moments before they launched towards the night’s climax with a legendary cover of Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight” molded into their own “Phine”. But wait, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Still in the headwaters of their Right Where I Belong album release tour, Earphunk is gaining steam. Although they are billed as prog-funk, their genre-bending music creates a show that simultaneously reflects the sounds funk, progressive rock, jam, and jazz, all coated in that vintage New Orleans spirit. Late on a Wednesday, the band started out strong, yet melodic; tight, yet free, and above all else, funky, evident with an unstoppable version of “Check The Pulse.” Driven by Michael Comeaux with a smooth bassline that you feel before you hear, he drummer Michael Matthews immediately established the driving syncopated grooves that set the tone for the entire dance-filled night. The whole band unified near the end of the first song, when Christian Gallé exhibited his synthesized prowess.
Still early into the night, and during “Mr. Moolah” from their yet-to-be-released album, Earphunk demonstrated their growing ability to connect themselves to the audience. Shredding solos the entire night, guitarist Paul Provosty showcased the talent that is what we’ve come to expect from Earphunk. Abrupt, well-timed finishes left the dancers dying to return the moments when they were lost in the groove. Other songs grew and gained speed like a snowball before the avalanche of funkiness buried the buildup. Getting ready to drive it home, the band rocketed into a drum and bass duet in the middle of “The Getdown” that hinted at what was coming in the air that night. Rejoining into the sound, you could almost see notes in the air as the bass called and the guitar answered. The dance party was fully underway, and the audience joined Hempe, singing “I’ve been waiting for this moment for so long” and “Asheville you look so Phine.” As the “so longs” faded out, the audience was treated to the new self-titled album jam “Right Where I Belong”, proving that like a classic bourbon, Earphunk is only getting better and more robust with age. The band quickly jumped back to the beloved “Saura,” that perfectly embodied the “Sweet Nasty” with smooth, harmonizing melodies that were impossible to resist. As they neared the end, they brought up Derrick Johnson from Unihorn and Yo Mamma’s Big Fat Booty Band to join them on stage, who together laid down a classic New Orleans collaborative funk. Never disappointing, the night ended with the same high energy and intensity that it began with.