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CukoRakko: The Southeast's Best Kept Secret October 12, 2018 12:00

Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography 
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If you've paid the slightest bit of attention to this website in the last three years, you're well aware of my affection for CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival and Horse Pens 40. I was fortunate enough to cross paths with the Cuko team in early 2015, and it didn't take long to realize the impact that this festival would have on my life. What once started as a tiny, grassroots festival featuring predominantly Alabama-based bands has evolved into a bi-annual showcase of incredibly diverse talent from across the southeast and beyond.
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Each year, I leave that beautiful property thinking, "How can this weekend possibly be topped?" and the bar continues to be raised. I'll be the first to say that the team at Big Friendly Productions absolutely crushed it yet again, and their work never ceases to amaze me. And I would be remissed if I didn't mention that this festival would not be possible without the support of the title sponsor, Land Rover Birmingham, as well as Birmingham's Avondale Brewing CompanyTrimTab Brewing, and Cahaba Brewing Company.
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We should probably start off by talking a little history on Horse Pens 40HP40 is a privately owned outdoor nature park located in St. Clair County near Steele, Alabama. The park is situated atop Alabama's third-highest mountain, Chandler Mountain, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The park is known among the rock climbing community as a premier bouldering site in the American Southeast
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The natural rock shelters located in Horse Pens 40 have seen over 15,000 years of human habitation. The park contains ancient Indian burial grounds dating from the earliest inhabitants of this area, all the way up to the time of the Cherokee removal known as the "Trail of Tears".  During The American Civil War, the site was used as a hiding place for horses and their owners wishing to avoid invaders from the north and the Confederate recruiters and "bushwhackers". Once it was discovered by Confederate forces, Horse Pens 40 was then used for the storage of supplies to be used by Confederate troops as they passed nearby.
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It was home to one of the first outdoor bluegrass music festivals in the country, and by the 1970s had grown to be one of the largest in the world. The park served as a venue showcasing many legends of the bluegrass genre including Bill Monroe, Charlie Daniels, Ricky Skaggs, Lester Flatt, Ralph Stanley, Doc Watson, and Norman Blake. Emmylou Harris made her first public appearance at Horse Pens 40, "standing barefoot on a wooden door propped up on the rocks." During this period, the park was designated by the Alabama State Legislature as "The Home of the South's Bluegrass Music".
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Now, let's get down to the nitty gritty. Those who were lucky enough to make the Thursday night pre-party witnessed something truly special. Winston Ramble and The Pearl each laid down powerful thirty-minute sets, before joining forces for a full hour of blazing hot Grateful Dead covers. The level of collaboration was borderline overwhelming, with special guests such as Davis Little (Little Raine Band), Desmond Sykes (Tragic City), and Connor Broome (The Broomestix) joining the party early and often. A tremendous amount of Alabama talent was on hand for the opening set, only to be followed by Doctor Ocular of Johnson City, Tennessee. I was shocked to learn this band formed in late 2016, as their combination of acid jazz, jamtronica, and roots rock had a very cohesive feel all night. 
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Watch Ramble On Pearl perform "Shakedown Street" here:
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Video by Home Team Photography
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The Jauntee and Skydyed made the trek all the way from Colorado, and it's safe to say that they both left their mark on Alabama. Many of us had gotten our first taste of The Jauntee the previous weekend at Saturn Birmingham with Twiddle, and thankfully, we got 90-minutes this go round. A product of Berklee College of Music, it's clear that these guys will continue to climb the ladder of the festival scene.
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One of the most dynamic sets of the weekend came from The Fritz. This was just an all out dance party from start to finish. Frontman Jamar Woods straight up owns the stage and works a crowd about as well as anyone I've seen. It's rare to see the front man standing up behind the keys and synth, but these guys are far from you're average band. A combination of fresh originals, as well as covers of Talking Heads' "Life During Wartime," Michael Jackson's "Black or White" and "Don't Stop 'Til Ya Get Enough," and Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" will certainly remembered for years to come.
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Watch video footage of The Fritz performing "Life During Wartime" here:
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Video by Isom Morgan Photoraphy
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Friday night was capped off with a surprise late night set from The Illuminators, a brand new band out of Birmingham. You wouldn't believe it if you were there, but this was the band's first official public performance. These spontaneous late night collaborations will be amongst my best memories of the weekend. Members of The Fritz, The Jauntee, and the Tragic City horns even joined in on what seemed like a three-hour dance party.
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Saturday began with Huntsville's Lamont Landers Band, a recent finalist on 'Showtime's Live at The Apollo'. I had heard a fair amount of hype about these guys, and festival attendees were buzzing about their performance all weekend. Early James & The Latest was one of the more intriguing acts on this lineup for me. I can't get enough of their sound, which has been described as "a mishmash of blues, country, folk, and jazz with crooner-esque styling." Whoever came up with that hit the nail on the head. You've got to hear the pipes on (Early) James Mullis. You won't forget him.
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After catching Steady Flow at the CukoRakko Fam Jam back in May, there was quite a bit of anticipation for this set. This band hits you with an onslaught of upbeat funk from start to finish, with some of the funkiest riffs you'll find. It would be impossible to make it through 90-minutes of Steady Flow without a little movin' and shakin'. Guitarist Tanner Brown's use of the talk box adds an especially fun element to the table, as seen during the band's creative spin on Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." Thankfully, this wouldn't be the last time we saw Brown on stage shredding. 
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Watch footage from Get Rhythm's drum circle here:
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Video by Home Team Photography
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I try my best to stay in tune with as many bands as possible, but there are always going to be a few that slip through the cracks. The New Orleans Suspects were a perfect example for me...until Saturday night. They're easily one of the most seasoned, accomplished groups to play this festival, and I haven't stopped listening to their music since leaving. Specific highlights came in the form of songs such as "Let's Get It Started," "Cocaine Jane," and a cover of The Wild Magnolia's "Peace Pipe." Do yourselves a favor and give those tracks a whirl.
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Following the Suspects, Skydyed took the festival in an entirely new direction, and I couldn't have been more impressed. While one could classify this band as 'jamtronica', a simple term couldn't possibly do them justice. Their placement as the final band on Saturday night couldn't have been more fitting. As I stood in front of the stage and looked around the amphitheater, hundreds of people were getting down in ways I can't even describe. It was a perfect picture in many ways. 
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Perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend came from The Talismen, the youngest band to ever hit the stage at CukoRakko. The Montgomery-natives are scattered across three different colleges, but you would never know it. The original plan was for two thirty-minute pop-up sets under the pavilion, between sets on the main stage. It didn't take long to decide that these guys deserved an additional late-night set. Word quickly spread across the festival grounds, and the band took full advantage of the opportunity.
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The level of improvisation displayed on The Rolling Stones' "Loving Cup," Otis Redding's "Hard to Handle," and Phish's "Chalkdust Torture" was ridiculous. Tanner Brown, Wildman Steve, the Tragic City horns, and others joined in for Kool & The Gang's "Get Down Tonight," which was sandwiched perfectly with Hot Chocolate's "You Sexy Thing." Equally as impressive were a few Talismen originals: "Strange Man" and "The Lawnchair Song." Get ready, because you'll be hearing a lot more about this band in the future. 
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Watch The Talismen performing "Chalkdust Torture" > "Whole Lotta Love" > "Chalkdust Torture" here:
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Sunday started off with one of Birmingham's hottest acts, The Brook & The Bluff. This was a new band for me, but after hearing of their recent signing with The Paradigm Agency, I knew that we were in for a treat. This band's unique sound and beautiful harmony vocals made for a perfect early Sunday set. Another Birmingham act, Eat a Peach, would take the stage next and lay down a scorching 90-minutes of Allman Brothers Band classics. All five members of this band also perform with the Black Jacket Symphony, and I can't imagine there is a better ABB tribute out there. You can see for yourself with the video footage of "Melissa" below. 
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Watch footage of Eat a Peach performing "Melissa" here:
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The living legend Charlie Hunter would then close out the weekend with his amazing trio. I had been waiting to see Charlie perform live for many years, and he was even better than expected. Watching this guy essentially play bass and lead guitar simultaneously is nothing short of mind blowing. For this performance, Hunter was joined by Grammy Award winning drummer Derrick Phillips (Hank Williams Jr.) and Ms. Dara Tucker, whose vocals had all of Horse Pens 40 melting. This was yet another Sunday that we'll all be talking about for years to come. 
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At the end of the day, I just can't say enough about this festival and the team behind it. I consider it one of my greatest honors to be involved with CukoRakko. Having the ability to live out these magical experiences at Horse Pens 40 is something that I will never take for granted. I can say "thank you" enough to the Schultz family for their willingness to share this magical property with us. The CukoRakko family is beyond special, so I won't even try to cheapen it with words. You know who you are. And for everyone else, if you ever have the opportunity to witness live music at this incomparable venue, I advise you run, not walk, towards that opportunity. Until next time...
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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: 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


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: