A Funked Up Monday Night with Five Alarm Funk

By Michelle McChristie

You never know what you’re going to get when you go to a concert on a Monday night. Touring bands are almost always exhausted when they get to Thunder Bay and only committed fans show up. Vancouver’s Five Alarm Funk and their fans are exceptions to the norm: if these guys know exhaustion, they don’t show it and they have a lot of fans in Thunder Bay. It’s safe to say they have a following.

People poured out to the dance floor with the Baltic-inspired horns that kicked off the first song and stayed there for the duration of the frenetic, two-hour long show. For whatever reason, TBay fans have adopted the Arsenio Hall Show “woot, woot” cheer, complete with fist pumping. “That shit should have died in the 80s,” says frontman Tayo Branston who apparently doesn’t know about the 80s (and 90s) time warp that affects most of Thunder Bay.

Five Alarm Funk’s stage performance is an aerobic workout, “the lake gives me power!” says shirtless and sweaty timbale player Carl Julig. Julig has an arsenal of outrageous dance moves and plays to the audience, not to be outdone by conga player Tom Towers who starts the show in a preppy tennis sweater and ends shirtless in a pair of scrubs hiked up to his nipples (don’t try to make any sense out of this—you had to be there).

Five Alarm Funk is more than skin, sweat and crazy stage antics—each of the nine members is supremely talented and their fusion of Gypsy rock and funk with world beats and rhythms, psychedelic guitar and a killer horn section is unrivalled by any touring band in Canada. Their lyrics might be a little flaky, but who cares? These guys personify fun. The Monday night crowd at Crocks came out for a good time and Five Alarm Funk delivered. TBay fans will welcome them back, retro cheers and all.