It was a cold and unforgiving night in Melbourne last Friday, but that was all forgotten in the intimate Ding Dong Lounge, as ten-piece funk band The Cactus Channel bought their album tour party back to their hometown. After ten days travelling the east coast, the Haptics tour party rolled back down to Melbourne for a night of funk fun.
The Afrobiotics kicked off with some funky West African beats, incorporating the sounds of bongos, saxophone, keys, trumpet and bass into a lively set. Vocalist Lamine Sonko was fresh and energetic, coercing the small crowd into grooving front of stage.
Songs like “What Goes Around Comes Around” and “Happy” were crowd pleasers, but at times sounded like too much of a mish-mash of sounds. The keys overpowered the raw energy of the sax, but full credit goes to Tristan Ludowyk who flawlessly switched between keys, trumpet and guitar throughout the set. His trumpet playing perfectly complimented Nick Lester on sax, and Sonko’s vocals created a happy vibe. By their final song— which had all the appeal of killer jazz, afrobeat combination— the crowd at Ding Dong were warmed up and ready to continue the dancing.
In between sets special guest DJ Manchild continued the mood with some soulful and funky tunes. He kept the growing crowd satisfied with some background music before The Cactus Channel took to the stage. From their opening number it was easy to see why they've been nominated for Best New Talent in The Age’s 2012 EG Awards. Although it appeared that one band member was out of action tonight, each sound complimented the next and trumpet, bass, guitar, drums, organ and sax played together harmoniously. They play with such musical maturity that you forget they are teenagers.
Their set was fast paced and dynamic. In fact it was hard not to find your body bopping, swaying or tapping. By now the Ding Dong Lounge was jam-packed, but this didn’t stop the eccentric following of The Cactus Channel from discarding their coats and grooving away. Each song eluded a different vibe— smooth, energetic, loose and soulful. And it seemed the band members were having just as much fun as their audience. From teens to thirty-somethings, to mums and dads, everyone in the crowd was enjoying the raw energy of this eclectic funk orchestra.
The best songs were those that created an intense build up. Beginning with a beat from Hudson Whitlock on drums, introducing the sax, with beautiful playing by Lauren Mullarvey and Campbell Wheeler, and some bass by Henry Jenkins, it culminated from there into a bang.
The only downside was not knowing which song was which— the set was so fast paced that no one stopped to introduce the tunes, and one song rolled into the next. Not that the dancers seemed to mind, their only concern was when the music stopped. Answering calls for “more, more, more…”, The Cactus Channel returned to stage for one last hurrah, and it was worth sticking around for.