EDvent/ Funky vs. Fresh Concert

Cover to get into the Avenue for 'Funky vs. Fresh': $10. A four-hour musical hybrid of local endowment: priceless!

BY EMIL TIEDEMANN

I RECOGNIZED him the moment I walked into the men's room at the Avenue Theatre (9030-118 Ave.) last Friday night (May 7) for the all-ages "Funky vs. Fresh" concert. And I know there are all kinds of dirty thoughts & images popping up in your head right now, but let me finish before you jump to your perverse conclusions.

The Joe (a.k.a. Joe Gurba) stood at the mirror, trying on his new cap, clad with the words Gateway Screen & Press. I fleetingly debated whether or not to say something like "hey, I know you."

As I stood at the urinal, my back to the charismatic local rapper, I bit the proverbial bullet: "I just bought your CD last weekend," I joyously admitted. I wasn't lying either. In fact, I was listening to Ut Oh in my car on the way to the Avenue.

"Oh, really?!"

As I washed my hands I told him that my favourite song on the record was #xvi, "God Himself," in what must've been his most awkward fan encounter yet. As we walked into the lobby, The Joe--I'm gonna refer to him simply as Joe (pictured below left) from now on, just because--invited me to grab a bite to eat with him before the show.

We headed across the street to a Vietnamese diner that I could tell he'd been to before. He ordered something I can't currently pronounce, and I sheepishly asked for a simple bowl of white rice and a Coke.

As we waited for our food to arrive Joe told me about his label Old Ugly Recording Company, and that he just finished writing a song about a guy at a job interview. He told me about this Florida rapper with the same handle and who had gotten to "The Joe" MySpace domain name first.

And when we weren't talking about those things or I Heart Edmonton, Joe told me about his good friend Jonek (pictured below right), who was scheduled to hit the stage that night, too. Minutes later, Jonek--a self-proclaimed Christian rapper--walked through the doors of the diner and sat down with us.

The three of us conversed over chopstick fare, engaging in thumbnail discussions of day jobs, blogs, and the music industry. I had to check out early though, to run back across the street to meet up with my friends, as Joe graciously payed for my part of the bill. The impromptu dinner union was definitely my pleasure.

Back at the Avenue I met up with my buddy Andrew and some friends of his that are (at least) familiar acquaintances of mine, including another of the night's booked talent Ray Mailman (pictured bottom left). I've impulsively learned the lyrics to several of Mailman's songs and have seen him perform a few times prior, so I knew already that his name on the hypothetical marquee (although there actually was a marquee) would be worth the $10 cover alone.

But I was about to get much more for my dollars than I had expected to.

Chalk it up to a poor location, inadequate press, or perhaps an abundance of bad taste, but the venue's capacity was not at its full potential, which is a shame for those who missed out. Mind you, the Avenue was much more spacious than I had anticipated, which may have meddled with my perception of the unfortunate turnout.

Whatever the case, Edmonton's own Tiff Hall kicked off the musical showdown of "funky vs. fresh," and set the bar high. Her potent vocals buried any background noise that can quickly hinder such intimate affairs. Hall's soulful urban vibes demanded our attention, as she spoiled us with pulsating tales influenced by "bad dates, her friends' bad dates, drunken nights on Whyte Ave. with her good buddies, bad decisions, and nice boyfriends."

For the last song in her set Hall invited Mailman & drummer Darryl Glen up to the stage to provide some subtle back-up vocals and unforgiving hip sways. Fortunately, they refrained from living up to the very lyrics of the song "Take His Shirt Off." At the end of the evening I flagged down Hall, complimented her performance, and bought her debut CD The New Fabulous ($10). Check out Hall's MySpace page to hear what I'm talking about.

Next up was Jonek, who re-directed the flow Hall had established, hip-hopping over polished lyrics and a mad beat-box serenade. Learning of his youth centre nine-to-five and well-mannered nature earlier in the evening, I can at least say I was caught off guard with his devout rhymes, sidekicked by The Joe himself.

On this account alone, I'd recommend they give up their day jobs.

Intermission allowed the next band to set up onstage, and so I took the opportunity to tell Jonek his set was beyond any expectations I had. Unfortunately, he had no CDs to take home, but you can check out his beats here.

Edmonton-based The Consonance followed about halfway through the show, effortlessly fusing funk and jazz with rock, and even a ration of hip-hop courtesy of drummer Justin.

The diverse sextet is made up of students from Grant MacEwan's music program, an outlet that not only guided their respective musical callings, but also introduced them to each other. That night, their chemistry was obvious and their groove in sync, dispersed in the form of originals like "Hotel" and "Seeing Red," and even a cover of Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" that could hold its own.

Their harmonious bass, electric guitar, saxophone, keyboards, drums, and sleek vocals fine-tuned The Consonance's crossbred melodies that make up their 4-song More Alive EP...which I also bought ($5).

The Joe insisted on our full attention when he returned to the stage for his own set. We eagerly complied, or at least I did, having gotten to know some of Joe's cerebral battle cries from Ut Oh.

From the ever-popular "You're Cool" to the booming "Apathy" (listen below), Joe inter-weaved the fragments of daily life through his matured grasp of the written word. His deft deeds and highbrow insults swooned the focused crowd, our eyes following the unconventional rapper as he criss-crossed the stage, almost as though incapable of standing still for more then five seconds at a time.

Unfortunately, it had to come to an end, but fortunately it was Mailman's band that were up next.

I'm a new fan of Tiff Hall, of Jonek, of The Consonance, and even The Joe, but I'm a relatively new fan of Mr. Mailman and his jazz-tinged, soul-flavoured pop-rock funk. Go ahead, ask me to sing "Dangerboy" and I'll do it. The whole thing!

Anyways, Mailman and his accompanying bassist (Ian McCarthy) and drummer (Glen) closed the "no booze, no drugs, no jerks" night with their lively set of songs that excluded the aforementioned, but included gems like "Upscale Honey," "I Didn't Know" and "Never Mind."

I could easily get used to these kinds of nights, local music enthusiasts gathering for stretched-out jam sessions at a venue that breeds "intimate" encounters between players and listeners. I got to shake the hands of almost every musician that took to the Avenue stage that night, and I now own a disc from nearly each one, too.

For those of you who knowingly missed out on Edmonton's own funk, hip-hop hybrid showcase, go to the nearest mirror and give yourself a slap in the face. And a good one, too, not something Dakota Fanning might brandish...something that'll leave a mark. Now, just stay tuned for an encore, and make sure you don't make the same mistake twice.

The Joe's "Apathy" (Old Ugly Recording Co.)

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