Love to funk

Lost on Main continues its funky ways with latest dance party

Mary “Mama Funk” Frances, keyboardist/vocalist for Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band.

Mary “Mama Funk” Frances, keyboardist/vocalist for Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band.

Photo by Brittany Waterstradt

Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band and the Mark Sexton Band, Friday, April 3, at Lost on Main.

Lately, Lost on Main has been hosting a lot of top-notch touring funk, hip-hop, world music and jam bands (Orgone, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Afrolicious, Lyrics Born, to name a few) as well as many local bands of every danceable genre. Its large, colorfully lit stage, killer sound system and spacious dance floor make it a great destination if you’re feeling like getting your groove on, whether that means hanging on the sidelines at a tall table for two, cozying up on a comfy upholstered couch or bustin’ a move and working up a sweat on the dance floor.

The April 3 show featuring headliners Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band from Asheville, N.C., and support group the Mark Sexton Band from Reno, brought a late-night crowd of funk-lovers to the venue and kept a good portion of us groovin’ up a storm on the dance floor from 10:15, when the first band hit the stage, till nearly 2 a.m., when the Big Fat Booty Band had to reluctantly quit the stage due to the imminent arrival of the club’s legally mandated closing time.

Guitarist Sexton opened his band’s set with a smooth groove reminiscent of Booker T. & the M.G.’s classic instrumental Memphis soul sound, with Ryan Taylor’s electric organ trading off and entwining melodic lines with the lead guitar over the endlessly rhythmic variations of drummer Dan Weiss and bassist Alex Korostinsky. The relaxed but tightly focused introductory jam brought a few members of the slowly growing audience onto the dance floor, and by the time the band switched gears to unleash a fully funky cover of Sly and the Family Stone’s classic “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” pretty much everyone in the constantly growing crowd either joined the dancers on the floor or shimmied in and on their seats.

With the assembled multitude fully warmed up, sufficiently lubricated and properly attitude-adjusted, Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band took the stage around midnight to rousing cheers of approval for their ain’t-nothin’-but-a-party attitude, festive stage regalia and deeply funky, booty-shaking music.

Composed of bassist Al “AI” Ingram, keyboardist/keytarist Mary Frances, guitarist John Paul Miller, trombone-player Derrick Johnson and drummer Lee Allen, the 13-year-old quintet brings a wealth of experience and a world of enthusiasm for their art form to their stage show. All the players, with the exception of drummer Allen, sing, and they all played with virtuoso technique and true-funkster looseness. To my ears, the key elements and most obvious influences derive from the multilayered, polyrhythmic sound originated by George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell in the seminal 1970s funk bands Funkadelic and Parliament, aka P-Funk.

The choice of employing trombone as the only brass instrument in the band is genius. And in the ultra-capable hands of Johnson the instrument provides an entire brass section’s worth of tonality and melody as well as reinforcement for both the rhythm section and the lead instrumentation of the band. And let’s get real—slide trombone-playing is much more visually interesting and entertaining than any key-activated brass instrument ever could be. Ranging from raunchily lascivious to deeply melancholy to boisterously funny, and everything in between, the tonal expressiveness of the instrument is nearly infinite, and Johnson didn’t waste or misplace any of that musical potential.

And speaking of exploiting potential to maximum effect, singer-keyboardist/femme fatale Mary “Mama Funk” Frances spices up the funk just as much musically as aesthetically. Whether shimmering like a benevolent, multi-armed Kali between the many keyboards within her wall of instruments or getting out front to rock the house face-on with her keytar and sultry voice, Frances never let up. The virtuosity and inventiveness of P-Funk’s Worrell came to mind more than once when listening to her solos and rhythmic embellishments.

This is truly and obviously a band, with each and every member fully contributing to create a cohesive and very entertaining show. If you didn’t catch ’em this time, keep your eyes and ears open for a return visit.