Conehead Buddha and Funktapuss Lay it on Thick in Buffalo

A little cold weather and snow has never gotten in the way of a Buffalonian’s plans. On Saturday, November 23rd, the city experienced the first bitter cold temperatures of the year, but that didn’t stop the funk fanatics of the Queen City. Conehead Buddha and Funktapuss were in town and Nietzsche’s was packed with eager fans that fought the elements just to check these two out.

With Conehead headlining the show, Funktapuss kicked things off with their soulful/bluesy style of funk. The five-piece from Cape Cod opened their set with a new song titled, “Unmistaken Reality.” While it started off like a slow rolling funk current, it really opened up as Ryan Tivey took the night’s first solo on sax and got the crowd buzzing. The end of the song had a heavy feel to it, similar to Lettuce’s brand of funk, and will keep me Googling the song name waiting for its official release. The band kept the pace after that, but really hit their stride on an old school/new school, back to back, funk history lesson. The guys took on a classic, covering Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground”. Lead singer Latez Crawley’s voice shined with a couple of fans drawing comparisons to James Brown. From there, they went into a cover of the Lettuce song, “Do It Like You Do”, showcasing the bands tight control of rhythm and wrapping up the history lesson.

As the set progressed, the band played songs off of their self-titled album as well as some other fitting covers. Brian Vanderbeek’s virtuosic bass opening to “Shakey Ground” was Wooten-esque and only reinforced why this guy should be known worldwide for what he can do with his instrument. It would be an insult to say he’s one of the best up and coming bassists as his skills are on par with all of the top names we’re familiar with. The band kept the funk pumping all night, only stopping briefly in between songs to really pack their set. Besides the opener, the group played two other new songs, “February” and “Soul Specific”. The three new songs as a whole were delivered with rhythmic precision and illustrated how Funktapuss is continuing to evolve their sound. Whereas their first album rode the soulful side of funk, the new album might see them kicking things up a gear as the three newbies on Saturday were simply incessant. To cap off their set, the group threw in one last cover, Tower of Power’s “What Is Hip”. This is a staple of theirs and the group absolutely nails it every time. Brian Vanderbeek’s heavy bass on the closer really drove the set home and had the entire crowd dancing to the throwback. With the band still relatively new, there was a resounding buzz in the crowd preceding the performance, wondering who these guys were and where they came from. This band is due to break out anytime now, and with every show it seems they’re gaining more and more momentum.

Setlist: Unmistaken Reality > I Got to Groove > I Know > Higher Ground > Do It Like You Do > Lesson > Shakey Ground > Threadin’ the Needle > The Truth > Go If You’re Gone > February > Night Life > Soul Specific > What Is Hip

Conehead Buddha took the stage next to keep the crowd moving. There was a lot of anticipation for these guys, which wasn’t surprising though as their blend of influences results in a feel-good vibe that anyone could dance to. The appropriately titled, “Aint No Better Way,” was the perfect way to start off the set. The high energy of the song immediately had people smiling and grooving around the dance floor, setting the tone for the remainder of the night. The stage was just as packed as the dance floor with the eight-piece band settling in to Nietzsche’s cozy stage. As the Latin rhythms carried in “Cielo Drive,” more and more of the crowd began to join in, coaxed from the outskirts of the club. The show was in full swing now and it seemed like Conehead had full control over its momentum. Mid-set approached and the band slowed things down with “Fly on Your Bedroom Wall.” The reggae feel was the perfect break to all of the energy that preceded it. The highlight of the night though, was during their song “Rockets,” as guitarist Justin Cross came out of nowhere and electrified the crowd. Up to that point, he was just blending in and contributing to the great feel, knowing all along he was going to blind side everyone in attendance. The solo lasted almost four minutes and showcased his chops while proving he had the control to hide it up until that point. For any musician, it’s a skill to know when to take the lead, but even more of one to show restraint. His surprise attack easily topped the night and left the crowd begging for more. These guys have been around the block a few times and tricks like this only reinforce that. They closed the night with an encore of “Safety in Numbers”, leaving all sweating and looking forward to the cold air. The walk back to the car was a welcomed one and definitely not requiring the jacket in tow.

Setlist: Aint No Better Way > Mind the Question > Cielo Drive > Forget Me Not > Fly on Your Bedroom Wall > Crumbs > My Way > Wear You Down > Rockets > Vinnie > My Side of the Story > Present Perfect > Shades of Green

Encore: Safety in Numbers