Funkfest wants to be the birthplace of a new generation of funk fans

Funkfest wants to be the birthplace of a new generation of funk fans

The Seven Ups
Words by Fergus Neal

Set in the spectacular Alpine Valley, Funkfest is the only festival in Australia dedicated to bringing you the best funk and soul music from around the country.

With Melbourne hosting one of the most vibrant funk scenes in Australia, along with the genre rapidly growing around the country, Funkfest creator Paul ‘Blue’ Hughes wants the festival to be a catalyst for the new wave of groove to sweep across the country.

Hughes set about discovering the best funk from home and abroad, in pursuit of showcasing its glorious base, rhythm, and drums on the crest of Victoria’s western slopes.

The event will see artists such as The Goods, The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra, and Alice Skye headline an eclectic celebration of music over a jam-packed weekend.

“I noticed that there was a big funk scene in Melbourne, but without a festival,” Hughes says. “I just started listening to funk music from all over Australia – it was a really exciting process to discover new music.

“Funk and soul spans such an incredible range of styles and has influenced an unbelievable range of musicians. People think funk and soul and they think traditional Sly and the Family Stone or P-Funk, but if you extend it out, it encapsulates the slow R&B stuff, hip hop, and even Rage Against The Machine is a kind of metal-funk.

“Having a look at the scene and being more involved in it, I just felt like funk needed wider exposure and I didn’t understand why it wasn’t happening.

“The lineup spans very different styles. You’ve got Kattimoni doing some soulful upbeat positive funk and soul, you’ve got The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra doing an urban hip hop style, The Seven Ups are instrumental with big horns – those are the bands I love. But even The Lachy Doley Group, for example – he’s not specifically funk but the blues he does is incredibly funky and he’s an incredibly wild man on stage.”

News of the event has sent excitement through the Melbourne funk scene. Artists who have long awaited an event dedicated to the dynamic genre of funk are eager for the chance to be supported and shine musically in such a breathtaking location as the Alpine Valley.

Tristan Ludowyk of The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra is set to light up the stage on Saturday night of the event.

“Having played around Australia for 11 years, Melbourne’s largest Afrobeat ensemble, The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra, is proud to be headlining Australia’s first dedicated funk and soul festival, Funkfest,” Ludowyk says.

“Afrobeat is a unique kind of music. Fela Kuti, the iconic musician and political activist at the centre of it all, took his West African Yoruba roots and incorporated them with the sounds of ‘60s funk and soul, like James Brown. The result is a fiery music that was used as a mouthpiece of anti-colonialism, and anti-corruption in Nigeria and all of Africa.”

Melbourne funk icon Miss Goldie, who hosts Boss Action on PBS, is similarly excited for the event. Having pushed the genre from a grassroots level, she is invigorated to see funk become its own festival.

“Melbourne has the biggest funk and soul scene in Australia. Because of this, Melbourne has quality bands to spare. The talent here is amazing. This is going to be three days of quality music in an utterly gorgeous setting.

“Funkfest 2020 is the first festival to celebrate what, in my opinion, is the best music has to offer. In five years, you are going to want to say you went to the first Funkfest before it went massive,” says Miss Goldie.

A key component of the festival will be its family-friendliness – the weekend will be free for those under 16 years of age with Connected Circus coming to the event and bringing fire twirling, a fluorescent play space, and circus skill workshops to look after the smaller groovers attending the event.

Anyone who has ever been to a funk event knows the power of the genre to transcend different peoples and ages to bring everyone together.

“The thing about funk music is it’s so danceable. It’s foot-tapping, head-nodding, jumping up-and-down dancing. Every time I see a funk band, it ends up with the whole house jumping up and down. Vaudeville Smash are a classic example, who are also playing with us. they have dedicated followers who go to everything they do and just tear the house down,” says Hughes.

Funkfest 2020 takes place from Friday February 14 to Sunday February 16 at the Feathertop Winery, Porepunkah. Tickets are available via Oztix.