Five Alarm Funk showman, Ricky Valentine. Phil Mclachlan/The Free Press

Five Alarm Funk brings the party

Five Alarm Funk rocked the crowd Saturday night during the 2017 Wapiti Music Festival.

The eight-piece funk band from Vancouver had everyone moving during their off-the-chart performance, which featured band lead, Tayo Branston centre stage clad only in a yellow Speedo.

Many saw this show as not simply music, but rather a musical experience. Dressed in crazy costumes, Five Alarm Funk performed until 11 p.m. and their raw energy had many surfing the crowd.

Five Alarm Funk has played in Fernie for years, their most recent visit in 2012 when they finished off the Wapiti weekend with a bang.

“Coming back in 2017, it’s kind of full circle for us,” said Branston. “In 2012, it was good, but to see what the festival has done from then until now… to see a festival succeeding and doing so well, you really know that Fernie is a place that loves music and is ready to groove. Everyone’s in the spirit of having fun and enjoying life.”

The group has been performing ever since leaving high school, over a decade ago. One cluster of friends would meet another cluster at a group jam, and eventually formed what is now, Five Alarm Funk.

Being as bold as they are on stage was a talent that grew as time progressed.

“Just like anything, the more you do it, the more you’re comfortable with it,” explained Branston.

“But we always loved stage presence, we always loved the theatrics on stage.”

“Our main purpose on stage is to have fun,” said Branston.

Branston reminisced about artists such as Frank Zappa, as well as old-school rock and metal bands that always had fun and enjoyed themselves on stage.

“(Don’t) take yourself so serious that the fun of actually performing gets sucked out of it,” said Branston.

Five Alarm Funk has performed many shows over the years that they consider, ‘crazy’. They said they always enjoy playing at Shambala Music Festival. Other noteworthy shows have been at the Riverbend Festival in Tennessee and the Enchanted Forest Gathering in California.

Branston feels that no matter where they play, the places are different but the people are the same.

“There’s just awesome people all over the place,” he said. “Any crowd that’s willing to get the groove on and enjoy the funk, is a great place for us.”

During their performance, there were many little moments of excitement happening, all the time. Whether a band member is changing costume from a gorilla into a gas-masked maniac, or being chased by a shark, there was never a shortage of entertainment.

A band since 2003, their current stage show is a culmination of all the years performing with each other. That being said, their line-up is always fluid, and the band is constantly changing their act.

“People can kind of do whatever they want on stage, as long as they keep it ‘sane’,” said Branston.

Asked if he ever gets bored of what he does, Branston replied, “No, it’s the best thing on earth.”

Branston admitted that although times can be hard as a musician, and there are moments when they are forced to grind away and strive to become bigger and better, they never get bored. Even on the drive to Fernie from Calgary, the group was excited to arrive in the mountains and play.

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