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CukoRakko Fam Jam Sparks New Musical Tradition In Birmingham May 23, 2018 13:05

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Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
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The Birmingham music scene continues to build its reputation as a true hotbed of talent, and this past weekend was a perfect example. In recent years, Avondale Brewery has established itself as one of the city's premier music venues, hosting many of the nation's hottest touring acts on any given night. Saturday introduced an entirely new concept to the brewery, as organizers of CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival hosted the inaugural CukoRakko Fam Jam, a one-day music and arts festival right in the heart of Birmingham. While plans are still in place for a full weekend festival at Horse Pens 40 in Steele, AL this fall, it certainly seems that the spring edition of CukoRakko has found a suitable home for the foreseeable future. The Fam Jam was presented by Jaguar Land Rover Birmingham, and as always, the team at Big Friendly Productions truly brought this event to life. 
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Known for featuring a steady variety of both local and national talent, CukoRakko has built a loyal grassroots following since its inception in 2014. While the Fam Jam was technically 'scaled back' in comparison to a full weekend of music, there was no shortage of spectacular performances on this day. As the 'Fam Jam' moniker suggests, CukoRakko also prides itself on being a true family-friendly event. In addition to the music, attendees participated in activities such as Soul Flow Yoga with Union Yoga, Didgeridoo Workshop with MacGavin Woodworks, and the always popular drum circle with John Scalici of Get Rhythm
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The festivities began at noon with a powerful performance from Barnaby Rudge, a homegrown 'supergroup' performing for just the second time. The lineup features many familiar faces, including members of Little Raine Band and Festival Expressions, as well as local favorites Taylor Hunnicut, Jason Grubbs, and Beck Hall. This group has the cohesive sound and chemistry of a full-time, veteran band, and we will be anxiously awaiting their next performance. Highlights included a mix of various originals, as well as covers of The Allman Brothers' "Dreams"and "Ain't Wastin' Time No More" and The Grateful Dead's "Terrapin Station." If you managed to miss this set, do yourself a favor and make Barnaby Rudge a priority moving forward. 
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South Alabama's Jimmy Lumpkin & The Revival would take the stage next. This band brings a unique flavor of Americana folk rock to the table, with vocals that will send chills down your spine. There were moments where I felt I was listening to a blend of Gary Clark Jr. and The Black Keys, with hints of Van Morrison and Ryan Adams. While this was my first live experience with this band, I thoroughly enjoyed their originals such as "My Name Is Love" and "Troubled Soul." Every music festival can use its fair share of Grateful Dead covers, and the decision to close out the set with "Franklin's Tower" was well received by the Birmingham faithful. The Gulf Coast has a true gem with this band, and there is no telling what they will accomplish when its all said and done. 
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When rumors began to surface of a Toubab Krewe reunion last fall, we could only hope that they might make their way down to Alabama. One would be hard pressed to find a more original, unique band on the road today. Blending the music of West Africa with traditional American roots, this instrumental powerhouse brings a sound like no other to the table. From the opening notes of this set, the entire crowd was dialed in. These guys command your undivided attention, exploring on instruments that most have never even seen in a live setting. Justin Perkins' work on the kona/ngori was mesmerizing, and it's clear that he and guitarist Drew Heller's history dates back to their teenage years. Percussionist Luke Quaranta and drummer Terrance Houston are absolute beasts, while bassist Justin Kimmel holds down an unmatchable groove throughout. Highlights from the set included originals such as "Hang Tan, "Bamana Niya," Nirvana the Buffalo," "Devil Woman," and the latest single "That Damn Squash." Here's to hoping that Toubab Krewe makes their way down to Alabama much more often.
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Next up on the lineup was Steady Flow, a young, energetic, power funk group from the heart of the midwest. I was particularly eager to see these guys in action, as they have earned high praise at other major festivals such as Summer Camp, North Coast, and Phases of the Moon in recent years. The group is led by brothers Tanner (guitar) and Ky (bass) Brown, who have been playing together since a very early age. While Steady Flow is a predominantly instrumental funk project, Tanner Brown works in a 'steady' amount of vocal work on the talkbox, which always draws a nice response from the crowd. This element was seen in full effect during a cover of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," as well as a medley that included segments of Luniz's "I Got Five On It" and 2 Pac & Dr. Dre's "California Love." Keyboardist Tay Brown showcased his vocal work on the original "Bottle of Funk," while a flawless instrumental take on James Gang's "Funk No. 49" pushed the energy to another level. Additional highlights came in the form of originals such as "Do You Like That?," "But Can You Dance?," and "China." After my first jam-packed, 90-minute taste of Steady Flow, I would agree that these guys could very well be "the future of funk."
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This year's headliner was The Russ Liquid Test, a three-piece live electronic act from New Orleans. Led by multi-instrumentalist Russ Liquid, this band blends elements funk, jazz, and electronic in a very tasteful way. Guitarist Andrew Block and drummer Deven Trusclair round out the lineup with roots that stretch deep into the New Orleans jazz scene. Russ is as dynamic of a performer as you will find on the festival circuit, constantly rotating between the keys, trumpet, and saxophone. Block's guitar work was equally impressive and a perfect compliment to Trusclair's powerful rhythm behind the kit. For those looking to dance and get down, Russ Liquid Test provided just that. For those looking to zone in on some mind blowing, technical musicianship, these guys delivered in every way. Highlights from the set included originals such as "You & Me," "World Gone Crazy," and "Honesty." While I don't typically dive too deep into the live electronic world, I was more than impressed and couldn't have enjoyed my first RLT experience any more. 
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If you were looking to continue the party past 11:00 PM, the three-piece house/techno group DYNOHUNTER had you covered. Hailing from Boulder, Colorado, this group is truly a breath of fresh air to the world of electronic dance music. A blend of bass, synth, drums, and saxophone made for a perfect, high-energy dance party to cap off the evening. When I think back on this set, the words "smooth" and "uplifting" come to mind. This trio isn't as much on the heavy/wompy side of EDM. The music was consistently groovy and uplifting. One couldn't help but let loose and get down as soon as they walked in the door.  
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In true CukoRakko fashion, the inaugural Fam Jam had something to offer just about every style of music fan. As the Birmingham music scene continues to flourish, this was a perfect opportunity to bring this festival-style concept to Avondale Brewery. Those looking for the weekend camping experience are in luck, as festival organizers are already locking in the lineup for the fall festival in early October. Stay tuned for further updates as they are made available!
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Watch a clip from Steady Flow's set here:
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Watch multiple clips from The Russ Liquid Test's set here:
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The Road to CukoRakko: Luke Quaranta of Toubab Krewe May 15, 2018 16:32

 

Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

If you're a music lover in Alabama, you've more than likely heard about an amazing grassroots festival known as CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival. Founded in 2014, the festival has been held twice a year at Horse Pens 40 in Steele, AL. As this concept has continued to evolve each year, festival producers have decided to bring the spring festival to Birmingham's Avondale Brewing Company on Saturday, May 19th, while still having plans for a full-weekend festival in October.

The spring festival will now be known as CukoRakko Fam Jam, a one-day event held in the heart of Birmingham which features a wide variety of world class talent from across the country. As we prepare for another unforgettable CukoRakko experience, we're sitting down and getting to know a few of this year's performers. For our next installment, we caught up with Luke Quaranta, percussionist of Toubab Krewe. See below for the full interview and stay tuned for further coverage throughout the weekend.

Share this post directly from the Live & Listen Facebook page and tag a friend in the comments section for a chance to win a pair of tickets to CukoRakko Fam Jam. We will announce the winner on Friday, May 18th.



Some music cannot be found on a map or within iTunes categories. Some music is so original it seems snatched from the great, invisible substrata that runs below all human activity, a sound aching to be born without a flag or fixed allegiance – free, questing, overflowing with immediate, tangible life. This is the music of Toubab Krewe, the vibrant Asheville, NC-based instrumental powerhouse that creates a sonic Pangaea that lustily swirls together rock, African traditions, jam sensibilities, international folk strains and more.  While nearly impossible to put into any box, it takes only a few moments to realize in a very palpable way that one is face-to-face with a true original who recognizes no borders in a march towards a muscular, original, globally switched-on sound.   

Formed in 2005, Toubab Krewe has tenaciously honed their craft through relentless touring and a fierce dedication to carving out something they can truly call their own.  This is a band that actively draws inspiration from whatever source floats into their purview, something they've exhibited in their decade of heavy gigging, including regular appearances at major U.S. festivals like Bonnaroo, High Sierra, Wakarusa and New York City's Summer Stage, and abroad at such legendary gatherings as Festival In The Desert in Mali, The Shanghai World Music Festival, and The Festival of World Music in Sines, Portugal.  

Their globe-hopping propensity has made them an emerging headliner at their hometown's famous Orange Peel and a familiar face at similar venues throughout the country. Whether on their own or collaborating with luminaries like the Last Poets' Umar Bin Hassan or Uncle Earl's Rayna Gellert, Toubab Krewe has already earned the attention and respect of a broad musical community.   

Toubab carries echoes of African greats like Ali Farka Toure, Orchestra Baobab and Salif Keita, no doubt picked up during the group's travels to study and live in Guinea, Ivory Coast and Mali.  But what truly differentiates Toubab Krewe from other Statesiders inspired by African music is how they innovate on what they've learned instead of simply recreating tradition. Toubab Krewe carves out a new trail honoring the African originators they admire by making something alive and contemporary. 

Click Here: Purchase CukoRakko Fam Jam Tickets

Let’s start off with some general history on the band. You guys got started in Asheville back in 2005. How did this project come together?

Luke: We started in 2005, and we had actually been friends for a lot longer than that. The project really came together around our friendships formed at Warren Wilson College. A few of the guys had been friends well before that. Our kora/ngoni player Justin Perkins and our guitarist Drew Heller grew up together in Asheville; playing music for a number of years. Our original drummer, Teal Brown, also grew up with those guys since the middle school days. They had some bands throughout high school and college.

I met the guys during the college years, and we had all developed this mutual interest in West African music. I was a part of a drumming group on campus, and then I went to Guinea, West Africa to study music in 1999. Four of us in the group (at that time) went to Guinea and Ivory Coast to study in 2001. So, those were the roots of it all. The interest in West African music and traveling to West Africa. Drew and Justin actually took a trip to Bamako, Mali in 2004 for about four months, and it was when they returned from that trip that we started in the band in 2005. 

I think on that trip...their eyes were opened to not only all of the traditional music that we had been studying, but also more of the contemporary scene in Bamako. Bands playing clubs, mixing Western instrumentation and more modern instrumentation with the traditional music. They got a real sense that we could play a lot of the music that we had come to really love, but also in a style that was true to our American roots. 

It was a cool moment, man. We started the band in '05 and cut the first record in April of that year. I think we released it in June of that year and started hitting the road, playing festivals, and never really looking back. We ended up being on the road for like 10 years, up until 2014. We played through that year, and that's when we decided to take a bit of a break from the road. 

I'd say that was well deserved. As you said, the band mixes the musical styles of West Africa and America. It's quite unique to say the least. I read that "toubab" means "foreigner," and "krewe" is in reference to New Orleans. Would you say that there is much of a New Orleans influence?
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Luke: Yeah...I think so, man. A lot of Americana roots. A lot of roots in old time and string music from Western North Carolina. Especially because Drew and Justin grew up there; playing banjos, fiddles, and what not. We all have such an appreciation for New Orleans music. At the time, it really reflected what we were doing, which was experimenting in a style that had really deep roots. I think a lot of the same things have happened in New Orleans music. 
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People come here (New Orleans) from all over the world. There's a lot of music from the Caribbean and African traditions...which are kind of morphed into their own styles here in New Orleans. That's kind of what we felt like we were doing. Studying the music of West Africa, and then also mixing it with things we grew up with. Trying to create a fresh sound with an authentic voice of our own. So yeah, I think New Orleans has always been a big influence. 
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I would imagine that the rich, eclectic culture of Asheville served as a great environment for a young band. How vital has the Asheville culture been on the evolution of Toubab Krewe?
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Luke: Yeah, I know that it was a great place to grow up for Drew and Justin. There's so much amazing traditional music there. As we came up as a band, the city was growing quite a bit. I think there was a real openness to different styles of music in town. The feedback that we got and the following we developed early on was really special. Asheville was just a really supportive place. I think a lot of artists and more musicians were moving there at the time. It really was a great place for us to start out as a band. Experimenting with music and making it our own. 
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Sounds about right. So, as a percussionist, would you say that your setup and overall style is significantly different than that of a more traditional american band?
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Luke: Yeah, for me, it definitely is. I think it is also for Justin. We have the traditional instruments in the group...drums, bass, and guitar are obviously integrated at the root of most American bands. Justin playing the kora, the 21-string harp from West Africa, and also the 12-string kamel ngonia is obviously much different. For me, the traditional West African instruments that I integrated into the band were the djembe, dunun, sangban, kenkeni, and then there is this log drum called the kryn that I always use as a part of my setup. There is also this metal scraper from southern Mali called the karenye. 
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More recently, I've used the sangban and kenkeni on either side of the djembe...kind of like a conga setup. They're traditional West African drums, and everything that I've brought to the band is typically West African in nature and in terms of instrumentation. I guess my background has included a lot of music from Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Mali, so I've been bringing that language into the band, as well. 
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In that sense, I think what I bring is different than maybe a traditional percussionist in a contemporary American band. They might integrate more congas, bells, blocks, racks, timbales, and stuff like that. Those instruments are more indigenous to Cuban music and music from South America and the Caribbean. So yeah, my setup is pretty unique and specifically West African in nature.
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Watch Toubab Krewe's official video for "That Damn Squash" here:
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Very cool. So, back in March, the band released Stylo, the first studio album since 2010. How long had this material been in the works? 
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Luke: At the end of the run...towards the end of 2014, we were thinking it was probably a good idea to take some time off from the road. We went into the studio in Atlanta with the current roster, which includes Terrance Houston from New Orleans on drums and Justin Kimmel from Brooklyn on bass. Our good friend, Vic Stafford, had revived Southern Tracks Recording Studio in Decatur, GA. He had been doing some new projects from there. We went in for about ten days and cut the majority of the record in late 2014. It was a great session. A lot of the material came about from previous sessions...really just jammin' and flushing out ideas. Longer form jam sessions, which were recorded. 
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We would then go back and instill some of those ideas into tunes. Justin and Drew brought some original tunes to the table. There are some reworked traditional arrangements, which we had done quite a bit on previous records. We kind of sat on it for a couple of years and didn't touch it much until early 2017. Drew, Justin, and I got together over a number of sessions in Asheville and Brooklyn to edit, overdub, and mix the record. It was cool, because all of the material was from late 2014, when we were really tight as a band, touring consistently. 
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We might have been a little burnt out as well, so when we came back to it, we came back with really fresh ears. It was a fresh experience, and we took a creative license to the mixing and editing process. This allowed us to shape the record into the final product. It was a cool process. We were able to encapsulate two time periods of the band. I'm really happy with the way it came out. We had a really good time with it. 
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That's amazing. It seems like the response has been strong, and the album has gotten some great exposure. You mentioned the three to four year touring hiatus. How vital was that time off for the band, and how has the return treated you so far?
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Luke: I think it was really good timing for us. Drew had just started a family and had a young baby. He had time to really focus on his family. I took the opportunity to move to New Orleans in September of 2014. That was great for me. I really got to branch out and play music with a lot of different people here. I know Justin spent a lot of time in Miami and Asheville. I think it was really good timing and a nice reset for the band. It allowed us all to do a lot of playing in casual, different settings. 
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Playing on the road with one project for so many years...it's such an intense focus. I think that this gave us a chance to recharge and realign some life goals. We've been really psyched to be back at it. It was a lot of fun to get together to finish the album. The response from the road has been great. Catching up with fans that we haven't seen in several years. I think everything has been great. We've been having some really great shows. Digging into this new material has been really fun too. 
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I guess we did our first run back in the fall of 2017, which allowed us to 'warm up'. Then we dropped the record this spring, and we've been out for a number of dates in Colorado, the northeast, and southeast. This summer, we're obviously focusing on festivals. We had still been doing a few festivals and one-offs during 2015 and 2016, but we didn't really focus on getting back to the road until we were prepping the album. It's been great to get back out there and gauge the response with the new music. 
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I love hearing that. Before we wrap up, you guys are playing CukoRakko Fam Jam in Birmingham on Saturday. What would you tell your casual music fan who might be walking into their first Toubab Krewe experience?
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Luke: I would say that they can expect a dance party, for sure. A lot of the music is heavy dance music. Also, I think they can expect a merging a worlds and cultures. They may hear a style of music that they've never heard before. If they have heard West African music, they might be experiencing it through a different lens. I think whether folks want to be on their feet dancing, or just listening and deciphering the different influences, I think it works for both experiences. 

Every show is different. The band prides itself on really allowing the music to move us and the crowd together. We want to take the whole experience to a new place that we might not have thought we'd get to. We're always open to seeing where the music takes us artistically, musically, and spiritually. I think it's going to be a great time. We haven't played in Birmingham too much, so I'm really looking forward to playing there in a nice, outdoor setting. 


The Road to CukoRakko: Tanner Brown of Steady Flow May 14, 2018 14:38

Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

If you're a music lover in Alabama, you've more than likely heard about an amazing grassroots festival known as CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival. Founded in 2014, the festival has been held twice a year at Horse Pens 40 in Steele, AL. As this concept has continued to evolve each year, festival producers have decided to bring the spring festival to Birmingham's Avondale Brewing Company on Saturday, May 19th, while still having plans for a full-weekend festival in October.

The spring festival will now be known as CukoRakko Fam Jam, a one-day event held in the heart of Birmingham which features a wide variety of world class talent from across the country. As we prepare for another unforgettable CukoRakko experience, we're sitting down and getting to know a few of this year's performers. For our first installment, we caught up with Tanner Brown, lead guitarist of Steady Flow. See below for the full interview, and stay tuned for additional preview coverage in the near future.

From the Heart of the Midwest, Steady Flow brings a unique style of powerful funk music like you've never heard it before. Formed in 2012 by 18 year old, soul guitarist extraordinaire, Tanner Brown, and his older brother, Ky "Goonie-Mom" Brown on bass guitar, the group has now transformed into a six-piece funk-powerhouse, quickly claiming their spot as one of the best live acts around.

In Steady Flow's short existence, the group has taken on music festivals such as North Coast, Summer Camp, Phases of the Moon, and the list goes on. The band is constantly turning heads at every performance as their hard hitting Funk Rock compositions shake the room and force all audiences to dance, rage, & simply feel good.

Steady Flow released their first EP, "The Oneoff Sessions" in 2013, and their debut album, "Loud." in June 2015. The band released their newest full length album, "Do You Like That?" in April 2017! Do not miss a live show near you. Steady Flow is "The Future Of Funk."

Click Here: Purchase CukoRakko Fam Jam Tickets

Steady Flow came to life in 2012 and has since evolved into a six-piece power funk force. How did things begin, and when did you realize that this band had serious potential?

Tanner: When I was a junior in high school, I started to obsess over any type of music that made people’s asses shake.  Once I discovered The Meters and Funkadelic, I knew it was something I needed to be involved in. My brother and I have been playing music together since we were toddlers. When I was 12 and he was 15, we played in a cover band with our dad on vocals. So, we were always surrounded by music, and knew we we’re going to be in a band together. It was just a matter of time. Our shared interest of rock ’n roll and hip-hop converted to funk, and we started writing grooves.

I remember posting flyers up at our community college that said “Looking for horn players and keyboardist to join funk band.” That’s how I met Cody “The Sensei” Ward on sax. The rest is history. We just had fun playing together and when we performed live, it seemed to rub off on people. I think we realized our potential when we first headlined the coolest venue in our hometown, the Peoria Riverfront Landing and over 800 people showed up. We freaked out, big time.

You released the debut EP, The Oneoff Sessions, in 2013 and followed with the debut album, Loud, in 2015. It's been just over a year since your second album, Do You Like That? How do you feel the band has progressed over these three releases?

Tanner:  Oh, wow. We’ve learned a lot. The first two releases, we had no idea what we were doing. Our last album Do You Like That? shows the band maturing quite a bit and getting a lot tighter. We went through some turnover with our lineup during the first two releases, so I feel like Do You Like That? is our first real album, you know?

Have any plans been made for your next studio release?

Tanner:  Absolutely. We’re putting out a new record this Summer. That’s all I can say right now.

Watch Steady Flow's music video for "Do You Like That?" here:

The touring schedule has clearly picked up as the band has grown in popularity. How valuable has this experience been for your growth, both individually and as a band?

Tanner:  Insanely valuable. For one, it’s a miracle if you can find a group of guys that are willing to drop everything and travel around the country playing music. It’s a tough living, no doubt; so many ups and downs.. But when you’re surrounded by great band mates, as well as fans that enjoy the music and atmosphere, nothing beats it. You learn a lot about each other when you’re confined to a van and hotel rooms every day. The funny part is, when we started the band, none of us would ever just “hang out.” Our personalities were way too different.. But now that we’ve been on the road so much, we’ve grown into this crazy family with hundreds of inside jokes, which by the way is the only way to get through a tour. Inside jokes. Stupid ones.

I'm always particularly intrigued by the song-writing mechanics within a predominantly instrumental band. How does Steady Flow go about creating new music?

Tanner:  It’s always changing. When I write, it’s very riff based. So, I’ll have a guitar riff that I’ll send to Cody (Ward) and say, “do whatever you want with this..” Everybody throws their ideas into the mix. Sometimes Cody will write a tune, 100% by himself, and bring it to us.  For me, I’m always thinking about drum patterns/grooves before I even think of melody, which might be uncommon. But I like finding beats/feels that we haven’t touched yet, and build from there, all while picturing a live show atmosphere. I went to so many shows growing up that when I write tunes, I’m thinking about being in the audience, and what I’d like to see and feel.

I feel like the jam/funk scene is as strong as it's ever been in 2018. You've had the chance to share the stage with some killer bands, both at festivals and clubs. What are a few of the highlights?

Tanner:  Last year, George Porter Jr. of The Meters sat in during our set at Peoria Blues & Heritage Festival. And like I said before, if it wasn’t for The Meters, there would be no Steady Flow. So that was a “Holy shit” moment for me. We played “Just Kissed My Baby” and I almost pissed myself. Other than that, we had Sammi Garret from Turkuaz sit in with us recently at one of our sold out shows in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. They are one of the hottest funk bands on the scene right now so that was a fun moment. We’ve also been rocking with our homie, Boogie T, a sick emerging DJ from New Orleans and one of the coolest dudes i’ve ever met.. Flava Flav sat in on drums with us in Wisconsin. That was a trip.  I’m trying to get Action Bronson to sit in with us at Summer Camp in a few weeks, so hopefully I can report back and update this list of awesome-sauce.

You'll be playing as the sun sets at CukoRakko Fam Jam in Birmingham on Saturday. What can attendees expect from you guys?

Tanner:  All of us sweating our asses off. Giving it 110%. A lot of head banging and booty shakin’. Kicking off the festival season proper. See you there.

Click Here: Purchase CukoRakko Fam Jam Tickets


The Road to CukoRakko: The Russ Liquid Test May 08, 2018 22:17

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Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
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If you're a music lover in Alabama, you've more than likely heard about an amazing grassroots festival known as CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival. Founded in 2014, the festival has been held twice a year at Horse Pens 40 in Steele, AL. As this concept has continued to evolve each year, festival producers have decided to bring the spring festival to Birmingham's Avondale Brewing Company on Saturday, May 19th, while still having plans for a full-weekend festival in October.

The spring festival will now be known as CukoRakko Fam Jam, a one-day event held in the heart of Birmingham which features a wide variety of world class talent from across the country. As we prepare for another unforgettable CukoRakko experience, we're sitting down and getting to know a few of this year's performers. For our first installment, we caught up with none other than the headliner, Russ Liquid of The Russ Liquid Test. See below for the full interview, and stay tuned for additional preview coverage in the near future.

Share this post directly from the Live & Listen Facebook page and tag a friend in the comments section for a chance to win a pair of tickets to CukoRakko Fam Jam. We will announce the winner on Monday, May 14th.

Redefining the possibilities of modern music, The Russ Liquid Test fuses the raw vitality of classic funk and the inventive sound design of electronic production. Songwriter/producer and renowned brass specialist Russell Scott heads up the New Orleans-based band. Guitarist Andrew Block and drummer Deven Trusclair round things out, with each providing a distinct musical background deeply rooted in the New Orleans jazz scene. A kinetic energy infuses each the band giving way to a mixture of funk/jazz/electro. The Russ Liquid Test evokes a kaleidoscope of textures, senses, and moods. At the heart of The Russ Liquid Test is an improv-driven musicality.
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The studio workhorses are continually putting out new music and have quite a few releases up their sleeves for 2018. The Russ Liquid Test creates a joyful sense of synergy in their high-powered live shows, with recent appearances including Shambhala Music Festival, Lightning in a Bottle, Summer Camp, and Sonic Bloom, among others. No matter the setting, a clear multidimensionality can always be heard in The Russ Liquid Test’s projects. “We want to make people feel good but also give them something to reflect with,” says Scott. “It’s not about just making party music or music that’s more introspective—it’s for the full gamut of human expression, and we want it to be just as dynamic as life itself.”
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Let's start off by talking about your musical background. You've built a strong reputation as a multi-instrumentalist. How did you get started?

Russ: I guess I was always interested in music. My mother was the choir director for the church we attended, so I kind of got started through the church. I learned piano first, then came the trumpet. Woodwinds were next. I guess you could say one led to the other. 

Tell me a little about the formation of the band: The Russ Liquid Test. You guys put out your debut EP, 1984, back in 2016. You've since released a follow up EP. How did you get together? Tell me about the dynamic of this band.

Russ: Well, it's always been a goal of mine to get back to playing music with other people. That's what I come from. When I met Andrew Block (guitar) doing the Gramatik tour, that's when I kind of knew that this was the time to do it. He shares similar musical tastes and understandings. He wants to do the same things that I do, so it really seemed like the perfect thing to do. We had a few different drummers before we met Deven (Trusclair), but once we met him, it felt like it was meant to be. He's one of my favorite people, and also one of my favorite drummers. 

I feel like there are still a fair amount of people out there who don't understand the dynamics of a live electronic band. Can you elaborate on how this concept works for The Russ Liquid Test?

Russ: Well, we kind of started out more along the lines of the traditional way that live electronic acts are doing it. They have some sort of backing track being played by a computer, and they supplement that by playing live instruments over it, which is kind of what we've been doing. We're slowly transitioning away from using a computer to play more parts than there are musicians on stage. Figuring out ways to still have the same impact, where we are triggering landscapes and textures, but in a way that's freeing us up from being locked down by a computer...if that makes any sense. 

How about the amount of improvisation that's involved in your live show? I'm always intrigued to hear different artists' approach towards this creative aspect. 

Russ: Our view that we all share on improvisation is that when used correctly, it can be a very powerful thing. However, as with anything, if it is overused, it can really take away from what you're trying to accomplish in the first place. That being said, we really like the power of a song. The song, to us, has specific parts, so there is variation to how we play each part on each night, but we try to stick the parts to really define what it is that we're going for on each particular song. We like to sprinkle that with moments on improvisation...to kind of add as a build. 

Watch highlights from The Russ Liquid Test's recent Fox Theatre show here:

I also wanted to talk about the New Orleans music scene, and the impact it has made on this band. You had the chance to work with Ivan Neville and Russell Batiste Jr. on your debut EP. How has it been for you since relocating to the area?

Russ: Andrew Block, our guitarist, is really the person who is responsible for connecting us with these amazing musicians to collaborate with. He's been in New Orleans for around eight years...maybe even ten. He's an amazing guitar player. He's been nominated as one of the top guitarists in New Orleans by OffBeat Magazine. He did that by going out and connecting with the people who he wanted to learn from and associate himself with. He put in a lot a time and effort. So, it was really neat for me when I moved to New Orleans about four years ago. I was just plugged into all the amazing connections that he blood, sweat, and teared to make. He kind of gave The Russ Liquid Test an unfair advantage to just be plugged into having guys like Ivan Neville and Russell Batiste on our debut EP.

Well sometime's it really is a 'right place, right time' thing, you know?

Russ: It really is. I'm always trying to keep an optimistic perspective on all of the events that happen in my life. You never know where an opportunity can lie. That's kind of been the whole thing with this band. I was living in the Bay Area, and my place burned down. I was a bit of a transient while I was touring with Gramatik. That's when I met Andrew, and he suggested that I move to New Orleans, so we could make music together. It's kind of one of those things where good comes from bad. I don't think I would've made that decision had my place not burned down. 

No kidding...

Russ: That's my philosophy of life, you know? You have your freedom of perspective. That's the only thing that is free. Truly freedom.

I think that's accurate. It's crazy how a disaster can turn into a blessing. It's almost as if it was meant to be in the long run.

Russ: Yeah...and it's really easy to drown in your own sorrows, but if you can stay afloat, you'll be able to see land. There's my daily preach for today. (laughs)

I also wanted to ask about RLT's sophomore EP, World Gone Crazy, which was released in November on GRiZ's label, All Good Records. Was this experience much different than 1984?

Russ: It was somewhat of a similar experience. I would say that the biggest difference between the two is that we didn't collaborate with as many people this time. 

You've had the opportunity to share the stage with a wide variety of amazing performers. What are a few recent highlights?

Russ: We recently did a tour supporting Umphrey's McGee. On the last night, they asked me to sit in on a Herbie Hancock track, "Hang Up Your Hang Ups." I got to play saxophone, and I kind of associate myself as being a trumpet player. They insisted that I play sax, so for me, that was a really cool moment to have really crushing musicians ask me to play sax. It was so much fun. Even more than that, we just played Red Rocks with our homie OPIUO. There was a huge orchestra. I've known Oscar (OPIUO) for probably nine years now. He's one of my closest friends. It was really neat to see him headline Red Rocks with a full orchestra. I was really stoked for him. I played keys/horns and Andrew played guitar. 

That sounds amazing. With the Umphrey's sit-in, was that much of a challenge? What's the transition like between the trumpet and saxophone?

Russ: It's different fingerings and some of the same muscles, but a little bit different. To be honest, it's pretty easy. I play trombone too, and it's way harder to go from trombone to trumpet, or vice versa, than to go from trumpet to sax or trombone to sax. Even though the trumpet and trombone have the same type of mouthpiece. The saxophone has a reed, the other ones just a brass piece of metal. For whatever reason, when you play the trumpet and then go to the trombone, the mouthpiece is so much bigger. It feels like you're swimming. If you do it vice versa, it definitely feels weird. 

Before we wrap up, you're obviously headlining the CukoRakko Fam Jam in Birmingham on May 19th. What can attendees expect from The Russ Liquid Test?

Russ: Oh yeah, that's gonna be fun. Get ready to dance, and if you don't like a certain song, give it a second. We'll be playing something completely different in about one minute (laughs).

Click Here: Purchase CukoRakko Fam Jam Tickets

Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography


CukoRakko Fam Jam Confirms Official 2018 Lineup March 12, 2018 15:00

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Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
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If you're a music lover in Alabama, you've more than likely heard about an amazing grassroots festival known as CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival. Founded in 2014, the festival has been held twice a year at Horse Pens 40 in Steele, AL. As this concept has continued to evolve each year, festival producers have decided to bring the spring festival to Birmingham's Avondale Brewing Company on Saturday, May 19th, while still having plans for a full-weekend festival in October.
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The spring festival will now be known as CukoRakko Fam Jam, a one-day event at Birmingham's Avondale Brewing Company featuring a wide variety of world class talent from across the country. This year's lineup includes the likes of The Russ Liquid TestToubab KreweSteady FlowJimmy Lumpkin & The Revival, and Birmingham-based super group Barnaby Rudge. In addition, there will be a special late night set from DYNOHUNTER. There are a very limited number of tickets available for the late night set, so make sure to grab those while supplies last.
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If you've never had a chance to experience the magic of CukoRakko, we strongly suggest marking your calendars for Saturday, May 19th. This family-friendly event is truly one of a kind, and we believe it's one of the premier annual music festivals in Alabama. Tickets are available now and can be purchased by clicking here. See below for further details and a little taste of each artist on the lineup. Make sure to follow CukoRakko on Facebook and Instagram for all of the latest updates! 
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Artwork by Mike Sears: Light Train Studio
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The Russ Liquid Test

Redefining the possibilities of modern music, The Russ Liquid Test fuses the raw vitality of classic funk and the inventive sound design of electronic production. Songwriter/producer and renowned brass specialist Russell Scott heads up the New Orleans-based band. Guitarist Andrew Block and drummer Deven Trusclair round things out, with each providing a distinct musical background deeply rooted in the New Orleans jazz scene. Their debut EP 1984 featured an eclectic array of guest collaborators such as Mr. Lif and Ivan Neville—successfully creating an auditory canvas to forge The Russ Liquid Test’s irresistibly soulful future-vintage stylings. 

A kinetic energy infuses each track on 1984. Giving way to a mixture of funk/jazz/electro, The Russ Liquid Test evokes a kaleidoscope of textures, senses, and moods. Featuring Ivan Neville on keyboards and the Funky Meters’ Russell Batiste Jr. on drums, the effervescent and synth-heavy title track “speaks about the current state of America from the perspective of an outsider,” as described by Scott. Lead single “Honesty,” meanwhile, finds The Russ Liquid Test slipping into a woozy psychedelia, offset by a brilliantly structured dichotomy introduced in its second-line-inspired groove.

At the heart of The Russ Liquid Test is an improv-driven musicality that began with Scott’s taking up classical piano. After spending several years playing in a jazz quintet on cruise ships and touring with psychedelic ska band Uprite Dub Orchestra, his one-of-a-kind artistry was unveiled in the genre-busting musical performance group MarchFourth Marching Band. Capable of playing the trumpet and saxophone, Scott quickly began experimenting with electronic music, eventually adopting the moniker of Russ Liquid. As his full-length debut, 2013’s Foreign Frequency showcased a forward-thinking mentality and fearless vision, anchored by an incomparable knowledge of music as a whole. “I wanted new colors to paint with,” says Scott of his foray into electronic music. “I kind of look at the electronic world as this whole other color palette, compared to the traditional sounds we’ve been working with for the past however many years.” 

While on tour with Gramatik in 2014, Scott crossed paths with Block and discovered the duo’s shared musical tastes and philosophies. A South Florida native, Block grew playing guitar in his local Pentecostal church. “I wasn’t religious, I just wanted to play at that church because the music there was amazing,” says Block. He later relocated to New Orleans, pursuing his dream of becoming a full-time musician. The guitarist’s legendary endeavors reached fellow purveyors of soul/funk/R&B, ranging from Pretty Lights to New Orleans icon Dr. John. Capable of collaborating and working as a solo artist without missing a beat, Block released his 2014 debut You Can Only Go Up From Here on Gramatik’s independent label Lowtemp.

In the making of 1984, The Russ Liquid Test compounded their potent chemistry by bringing in a lineup of equally impassioned musicians. “Coming from a background of playing in bands and then getting into electronic music, I’d really missed having that interaction with other musicians,” says Scott. “The most rewarding thing for me is being able to bounce ideas off other people, so that the music ends up having more than just one person’s vibe to it. Ultimately it lets you give the audience even more to connect with.”

The studio workhorses have already begun working on a sophomore EP. The Russ Liquid Test also presents a joyful sense of synergy in their high-powered live shows, with recent appearances including Shambhala Music Festival, Lightning in a Bottle, Summer Camp, and Sonic Bloom, among others. No matter the setting, a clear multidimensionality can always be heard in The Russ Liquid Test’s projects. “We want to make people feel good but also give them something to reflect with,” says Scott. “It’s not about just making party music or music that’s more introspective—it’s for the full gamut of human expression, and we want it to be just as dynamic as life itself.”

Watch The Russ Liquid Test perform at Purple Hatter's Ball 2017 here: 
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Toubab Krewe

Blending American and West African influences into a sound all its own, Toubab Krewe has set "a new standard for fusions of rock 'n' roll and West African music" (Afropop Worldwide).

Since forming in 2005, the magnetic instrumental quintet has won a diverse and devoted following at performances everywhere from Bonnaroo to the legendary Festival of the Desert in Essakane, Mali, the most remote festival in the world. The band developed their unique sound over the course of numerous extended trips to Mali, Guinea, and Ivory Coast, where they immersed themselves in the local culture and studied and performed with luminaries.

But the group has its roots in Asheville, NC, where many of its members were childhood friends and long-term musical collaborators. It was at home in the Appalachians, where the band recorded their sophomore album, Live at the Orange Peel.

Produced by Grammy winning producer Steven Heller (who also produced the band's debut), the new album captures their outstanding 2007-2008 New Year's run. All of the songs are previously unreleased and continue to mix American rock with the West African musical traditions the band fell in love with on their travels. Along the way, they explore the worlds of surf and zydeco, fusing it all together into what the Village Voice describes as "a futuristic, psychedelic, neo-griot frenzy" and Honest Tune hails as "one of the most innovative voices in music today." The new release features col- laborations with legendary spoken word artist Umar Bin Hassan of The Last Poets and fiddler Rayna Gellert of Uncle Earl.

Listen to Toubab Krewe's new single "That Damn Squash" here:


DYNOHUNTER

DYNOHUNTER is truly a breath of fresh air to the world of electronic dance music. With a sound embraced by fans of house and techno and a live performance fueled by the organic energy of live instrumentation, their music is undeniable on the dance floor. DYNOHUNTER's ability to blend deep electronic influences with live saxophone, bass, and drums forges a new path in the vast expanse of electronic music.

Their sound journeys from dark tribal meditations, exotic rhythms, and deep hypnotic grooves to hard hitting dance tracks, uplifting melodies, and soulful improvisations. Equally at home playing underground clubs and festival mainstages, DYNOHUNTER brings a relentless and unmatched energy to each and every set.

They've opened for some of the biggest names in livetronica including Conspirator, Eoto, Opiuo, Ott, and The New Deal as well as supporting world renowned DJ's Shpongle, Bonobo, Infected Mushroom, Klingande, and The M Machine. No stranger to the festival community DYNOHUNTER has performed at music festivals across the country including Wakarusa, Summercamp, Joshua Tree, Sonic Bloom, & Great North. With an unparalleled work ethic and a one of a kind performance DYNOHUNTER has established themselves as the livetronica artist to watch.

DYNOHUNTER has set themselves apart from the pack by creating timeless music that speaks to true lovers of dance music. Always paying respect to the artists that have inspired them and paved the way, yet always striving to make music that is contemporary and progressive, a genuine expression of their own unique human experiences and a reflection of the times.

Watch DYNOHUNTER perform "Knew Conscious" here:

Steady Flow

From the Heart of the Midwest, Steady Flow brings a unique style of powerful funk music like you've never heard it before. Formed in 2012 by 18 year old, soul guitarist extraordinaire, Tanner Brown, and his older brother, Ky "Goonie-Mom" Brown on bass guitar, the group has now transformed into a six-piece funk-powerhouse, quickly claiming their spot as one of the best live acts around.

In Steady Flow's short existence, the group has taken on music festivals such as North Coast, Summer Camp, Phases of the Moon, and the list goes on. The band is constantly turning heads at every performance as their hard hitting Funk Rock compositions shake the room and force all audiences to dance, rage, & simply feel good.

Steady Flow released their first EP, "The Oneoff Sessions" in 2013, and their debut album, "Loud." in June 2015. The band released their newest full length album, "Do You Like That?" in April 2017! Do not miss a live show near you. Steady Flow is "The Future Of Funk."

Watch Steady Flow perform "Do You Like That" here:

Jimmy Lumpkin & The Revival

Straight out of a cabin in the backwoods of South Alabama, Jimmy Lumpkin belts out sublime sounds that are altogether Country, Rock, Soul and Blues. Jimmy is a singer, songwriter and guitarist with an intoxicating voice and a stirring, soulful bend to his own brand of music. With the voice of a 100-year-old angel from the delta, the soul found in Jimmy’s music is like no other. Skate Mountain Records is proud to present to the world music from a point of view they have never heard before. In the likes of Sturgill Simpson, Bo Diddley, The Black Keys and Marvin Gaye, Jimmy Lumpkin & The Revival set the bar higher than any other with their August 2017 release of their new album, "Home" - a unique blend of soulful roots rock and Americana.

Watch Jimmy Lumpkin & The Revival's music video for "The Best One" here:

Barnaby Rudge

After the disbandment of Festival Expressions, Ransom Pewitt (lead singer and guitar player of FestEx) created Barnaby Rudge as the new vehicle for musical endeavors. In the style of Steely Dan, Barnaby does not have a set line-up of musicians; rather, the best artists for the songs are chosen on a show by show and song by song basis. Some of the best local talent around Birmingham, Alabama aided in the first show at Workplay Theater. The line-up included members of Little Raine Band (Justin Sledge, Daniel Raine, Davis Little), local favorite Jason Grubbs, along with members of Tragic City and Taylor Hunnicutt & Co. Bassist Beck Hall played a few tunes in addition to the original FestEx bassist Marcus O'Neill. The next show, May 19 at The Cuko Rakko FamJam at Avondale Brewing Company, is sure to be another great night of live music with Beck Hall, members of Little Raine Band, Jason Grubbs, and Taylor Hunnicutt returning for the special event. The band will continue to evolve as previous Festival Expressions drummer Josh Wiseman joins the lineup in 2018. Stay tuned. Much more to come.

Watch Barnaby Rudge perform "The Music Never Stopped" at WorkPlay here: