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Sydney Festival Live Review: Kashmere Stage Band - Paradiso at Town Hall (20.01.13)

To watch a great band tear up the stage is one thing. To experience that band not only do that, but whip the crowd up into a frenzy shortly after being completely engrossed in the documentary that filled us in on the extraordinary story that saw them here before us, is very much another. That was the predicament the crowd found themselves in this past Sunday as we watched the Thunder Soul documentary followed by the downright dirty funk of the Kashmere Stage Band at Paradiso at Town Hall as part of the 2013 Sydney Festival, presented by Funkdafied.

The Jamie Foxx executive produced Thunder Soul documentary on it’s own is well worth a viewing, with it’s tale of how music teacher Conrad Johnson inspired and pushed his students to become the champions of high school band music competitions in the 1970’s – becoming the first all African American band to do so – and lighting a fire in them that gave them a hope and a future, as well as an undeniable love for music. What differentiated the band from others in the competitions was not only the colour of their skin, but that they substituted the big band sound that was the standard in the competitions for a style that hadn’t been utilised in that arena before – funk. The documentary follows the students as they dust off their instruments and reunite 30 years later to play a tribute concert in honour of their music teacher and mentor.

Straight after the credits finished rolling and the projector screen rose in the Town Hall we were greeted with the silhouettes of the real life Kashmere Stage Band, albeit minus the women of the band, but still there they were, those people whose story we had just been so deeply drawn into, ready to play for us. What a privilege. In a nutshell the band did not disappoint. Do you love funk ala The Bar-Kays, James Brown and Earth, Wind & Fire? Do have fantasies of travelling back in time and busting out your very best dance moves on Soul Train? Then this show was your moment. This show was for you. But then again, this show was really all about the Kashmere Stage Band, not just the indulgence of us spoilt Sydney-siders. However, we need not worry that anyone was leaving this show feeling unfulfilled; the audience wanted the funk and the band gave it up to us, embracing their performance with such a fervour and pure joy that it was more than apparent that they were enjoying this moment, their moment, as much as the audience, even going so far as to lead the audience in a demonstration of how to truly get down on the dance floor, that the crowd delighted in attempting.

Hollywood couldn’t write a better script then the story of the Kashmere Stage Band and by the end of the Thunder Soul documentary it’s safe to say that the crowd felt emotionally connected to the band and to Conrad Johnson, but after their live performance we felt like we were one with them. Where Thunder Soul delivered a great story, Kashmere Stage Band live gave us one hell of a performance from a stellar band, all of which reminded us just how important the creative arts and music are in the education of children, and in the lives of all people.