A case of funk
For a group of undeniably focused musicians, “Space Case” is an unusual band name. Bassist John Armbruster, keyboardist Kit Wolverton and drummer Mike Springer lay out a tight, high-energy set that commands attention.
The trio’s songs conjure sonic images of the Beastie Boys’ The In Sound From Way Out album, and they even contain subtle shades of Earth Wind & Fire at their funkiest. While some of the band’s musical influences are apparent—Armbruster lists Jimmy Smith, James Brown and The Meters as some of the band’s favorites—none are over-tapped. Space Case mixes a unique formula of funk, jazz and solid improvisational style that should play out well in the studio.
Performing in the area since 2004, the group has honed their collaborative into a rich sound with only three instruments. Armbruster looks forward to capturing these efforts on a debut demo. The band has opened its schedule for the first couple months of the year with hopes to put some tracks down for audiences. “We’ve gotten this far just by word-of-mouth and by opening in clubs around town,” says Armbruster.
Wolverton and Armbruster have roots that go years back to bands in Chicago and the Midwest. “Kit and I have known each other since we were 14,” says Wolverton. “At first we played together in pick-up bands … then we met up again later as musicians.” Part of Armbruster’s incentive to make the move to Reno was the area’s wealth of outdoor venues for up-and-coming musicians. It seemed natural for him to collaborate again with Wolverton, who was already in town. Springer became the group’s drummer just last fall, but the other two members say he brought instant symbiosis to Space Case.
Talking with Armbruster, it is clear the bassist is a modest spokesperson when it comes to himself, but he is quick to point out the distinctiveness of one bandmate’s instrument. Wolverton stands behind a vintage Hammond and Keys—a piece of musical equipment loaded with jazz/funk credibility and equipped with sharp teeth. Layered within songs like “Gorilla Sandwich” and “E Flat Wizard,” the Hammond sizzles beneath Wolverton’s hands. The Hammond was popular with jazz musicians of the 1960s; Space Case does the instrument justice in its more modern setting.
Like any good band starting out, Space Case has had some help—not only from fans who follow the group to its regular performance haunts but also from those who understand that local musicians represent an indispensable talent pool. Paesano Productions, a promotional company that is appropriately local, has worked hard (and successfully) to book shows for many musicians in the region, including Native Root, The Jeff Jones Band, Sol Jibe and, of course, Space Case. Each band was chosen because it brings something fresh to live music lovers in the area.
A crowd always gathers around bands with a keyed-in sound. Space Case, a cause for congregation, opens up a new reason to get funky and tap both feet on whatever floor the trio graces.