Arriving 20 minutes late, thanks to my dear drunken friends, I scurried to the front of the I.D. check line. It was time for some Saturday Night Fever, baby, and I refused to waste a second more of my boogie time.
I could hear a muffled yet familiar song through the door crack of The Bluebird. Could it be? No … there’s no way. After approval of my 21-year-old identification, I swung open the door to hear Huckleberry Funk covering “Whipping Post” by The Allman Brothers Band.
“That’ll be $6 for cover.”
Passed the bar and into the crowd I flew soaring along an unholy guitar riff executed by Mike Gronsky and more R than B, yet pure velvet vocals, by Dexter Clardy.
Huckleberry Funk is a rock, soul, and funk – emphasis on funk – band based in Bloomington, IN. The illustrious band has made a name for themselves in the Midwest since members Dexter Clardy (vocals), Mike Gronsky (guitar), Alex Dura (saxophone, keyboards), Brennan Johns (horns, keyboards), Matt McConahay (bass), and Lex Lindsey (drums) united as a group in the fall of 2016.
Speaking of my face, Mike Gronsky and Matt McConahay collectively melted it off when they simultaneously dropped the rhythm and bass line to “She’s A Bad Mama Jama.” Four beams of yellow light appeared behind the band and scanned across the crowds’ line of sight almost like sun rays accompanying the presence of Carl Carlton himself.
It was in that moment when I decided to surrender to The Funk Gods.
A frat bro sitting next to me noticed my hand rapidly scribbling words down on my $1.29 notepad and proceeded to shout in my poor, poor right ear, “Hey, lady! I don’t do music, but I sure do groove. And THIS shit is THAT shit to groove to! Write that down.”
So, you heard it here first. Huck Funk is officially THAT shit according to frat bro. And, well, everyone else inside the walls of The Bluebird on March 3, 2018.
The energy only ever picked up. Dex was quick to address the overwhelming smell of spilt PBR bottles and water longs, “Y’all came to get fucked up tonight, didn’t ya? You came to the right place. Tip your bartenders well.”
A button more down on his shirt. Another button more down on his shirt. That’s right, folks. Dexter Clardy was now standing front stage with only one button keeping his shirt together. Without further ado, “As a young black man, I love my women. Ladies, you are looking mighty fine tonight … Mike, let’s talk to ‘em.”
With shades on that appeared seemingly out of thin air, Dex filed in after Mike’s guitar screamed, “Yeah, this is definitely Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’.”
Much of Huckleberry’s material feels like an infectious, groove-driven march in terms of the rhythm and instrumentation. It was quite fitting when Alex Dura’s saxophone solo hit like dynamite during their rendition of “Let’s Get It On.” Damn, do I love myself some sax. Noted: The front row dude wearing a white leisure suit and synthetic afro wig loves sax, too.
Lovebirds and strangers abruptly stopped slow dancing upon the realization that Marvin Gaye was through and it was time for some Rick James, bitch.
“Give It To Me Baby” initiated a hot trombone solo from Brennan Johns. When I say hot I mean scorching. The Bluebird‘s thermostat skyrocketed, man. I could see the glistening sweat shining off the faces of the crowd as the band transitioned into “Redbone” by Childish Gambino.
“If you know this song … you better be singing along.”
Not to worry, Dex, not to worry.
It sounded as though the entirety of The Bluebird was belting alongside the unhurried momentum of “Redbone,” which ended with a roar of applause, naturally.
Without hesitation I can wholeheartedly say: If Huckleberry Funk played every week, I’d try to catch it every time. This was my fourth time seeing them live and it was just as, if not more, different and magnetic as the three previous performances I’ve experienced.
Huckleberry’s set came replete with veritable light production, at least four empty Budweiser cans on stage, resplendent outfits and accessories (including Brennan’s golden dream catcher necklace), and lengthy psychedelic soul anthems that glided through different movements. The end came far too quickly with an outro by Dex, “We go by the name Huckleberry Funk. We got one more song, is that cool? Let’s get to it.”
What better way to close out a full-fledged funk-fest than with a keytar solo?
A better way: A keytar AND a behind-the-back guitar solo. Kudos, Alex and Mike.
Huck Funk’s audience should expect to leave in raptures after indulging in a blast of east coast styled horns here, a keyboard solo or piquant guitar lick there, with soulful bass lines and hard-smacking drums throughout. In other words, they deliver quality boogie music.
The room was thick with people, and now smelling of a few sparked joints, when chants for an encore ensued. The Huckleberry Funk men shuffled off stage radiating satisfaction.
It’s insane to me that a band with only a year and a half worth of experience together are so entirely reinvigorated and conquering with each performance. They’re captivating live, and it was hands down one of the most positively stimulating shows I’ve attended at The Bluebird.
Kudos, Huckleberry Funk.