Funky Jam Benefit Party Presents Mixture of Talent to an Intimate Crowd

Funky Jam at the Westcott Theater Friday August 14 saw the Syracuse music locale transform into a collaborative art space of opportunity for local crafters and musicians. Painter Yegor Mikushkin planned the benefit show to raise money for supplies to execute a mural on the outer rear brick wall of the theater. The dark inner walls of the theater were brought to life with an array of Mikushkin’s vivid paintings, which were scattered throughout the 700-person venue. The tall canvases stood sentry, attesting to the skill and aesthetic the painter will be bringing to the mural, while also daring attendees to splurge and take home a Mikushkin original. Other crafters also sold their wares, including screen printed t-shirts, paper lamps and art books.

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Pankau

To give the audience a taste of Mikushkin’s work style, he live painted a canvas on stage with help from fellow painter and musician Sara Potocsny, while local musicians serenaded the unfavorably sparse crowd composed primarily of friends and family. The stage supported various acts of artistic expression including performances by musicians Phil Grajko, of Grayak, Morning Sun and the Essentials and Root SHOCK, Jessica Brown of Root SHOCK, Christopher Woods of Root SHOCK and The Sauce, drummers Tyler Dattmore and Adam Ast, guitarist Chris Chiesa, violist Sara Potocsny, DJ Leonard Adams, Jamie Knittel of The New Daze, and freestyle vocals of Eric Dwyre. An on stage devil stick demonstration by local artist Breeze tied into the tangle of performers who came out to support Mikushkin’s cause.

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Pankau

Even in a room replete with talent, some of the musical collaborations were disjointed. Musicians who have played together before, including Grajko, Brown and Woods, were able to deliver a more cohesive and satisfying performance. Grajko, performing several songs he has recorded with different bands, relied on Tyler Dattmore’s percussion skills on the cajon to backup a stripped down version of Grayak’s “Have a Beautiful Now,” which traditionally incorporates a more diverse accompaniment including elegant fiddle and upright bass parts.  Mid-song, Grajko and Dattmore transitioned to a rendition of Morning Sun and the Essential’s uplifting number, “Love Agenda” before seamlessly returning back to “Have a Beautiful Now.”

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Pankau

As the song title, “Have a Beautiful Now” suggests, audience members and performers alike, all whom have personal ties to Mikushkin, relished in the splendor of the evening, soaking up the joy of filling the Westcott Theater with love and beauty, even in lieu of a small turnout.