Let Me Take You Down To Funky Town

Some places, such as New Orleans, Monterey, Santa Fe, Newport R.I. Austin,Nashville, instantly bring the word ‘music’ to mind when you mention them. Bellingham, Wa., where I live, probably should be somewhere on the list. You might not say that ‘the hills are alive with music’ where I live, but the streets, schools, parks,clubs, concert halls, churches and homes certainly are. On any given evening, no matter whether you enjoy classical, jazz, rock, hip-hop, blues, bluegrass or country, you can hear or participate in ‘live’ music somewhere in town. I have always found this rather amazing for a city with a metro population of about 81,000 (metro population puts it at  201,000). That’s one reason I chose to live and finish raising my family here. As a photographer, it’s given me lots and lots of opportunities to photograph musicians, both in the studio and in concert.

Last Thursday evening, for example, found us in the music-lovin’ crowd at the Wild Buffalo, a local downtown music club, where the nationally known funk band from New Orleans, Galactic, was playing to a near sold-out house. It was one of the first stops on the band’s West Coast tour which includes two nights at the Fillmore in San Francisco and the El Rey theatre in Los Angeles. The band played until after midnight with the crowd staying with them.

The New Oirleans based funk band, Galatic, plays to an enthusiastic crowd at Bellingham's Wild Buffalo. I made this shot with my iPhone from within the midst of the crowd.
The New Oirleans based funk band, Galatcic, plays to an enthusiastic crowd at Bellingham’s Wild Buffalo. I made this shot with my iPhone from within the midst of the crowd.

We’ll be there again this upcoming Friday night, March 6, when the Fabulous Party Boys, for which my son is the drummer, takes the stage. Like so many others, the funk band, now based in Seattle, started out when my son was still in middle school.  They stuck together through high school, calling themselves simply ‘The Funk Band,’ until one day Randy Newman came to town for a concert, met them after the show and said that he always thought The Fabulous Party Boys would be a good name for a band. I guess they did too because after that, they became The Fabulous Party Boys.

The Seattle-based funk band,the Fabulous Party Boys, performing onstage at Bellinghan's Wild Buffalo.
The Seattle-based funk band,the Fabulous Party Boys, performing onstage at Bellingham’s Wild Buffalo.

They continued learning and playing funk music ‘covers’ and gradually added their own tunes. They’d appear at school and various community events and at some of the local music clubs, long before they could legally enter the place by themselves. They’d march with their instruments straight up to the stage, play their 45-minute set, then march straight out again. Sometimes, they’d fill-in for the bigger, locally known bands, like the popular but now defunct funk band, La Push, during their breaks between sets. And sometimes, La Push would just let them keep playing.  Not long ago, the lead singer and trumpet player for La Push, Joel Ricci,joined them on stage for a guest stint.

Keyboardist Eliot Gray shakes it up on during a Fabulous Party Boys gig at Bellingham's Wild Buffalo.
Keyboardist Eliot Gray shakes it up on during a Fabulous Party Boys gig at Bellingham’s Wild Buffalo.

During college, the band members went their separate ways, studying music at college, but always re-grouping in the summers when most of them were back in Bellingham. Gradually, the band evolved. Some of the original members have gone on to pursue other avenues of music–Jordan Piper plays jazz piano in New York, Jeff Seigfried is finishing up his PhD as a classical saxophonist at Northwestern University, guitarist Albert Diaz is also finishing up his PhD in musicology from USC, for example.

Drummer Marshall Petryni lays down the funky beat for Seattle's funk band, the Fabulous Party Boys.
Drummer Marshall Petryni lays down the funky beat for Seattle’s funk band, the Fabulous Party Boys.

But my son, Marshall, and Jon Hansen, who plays tuba as the bassist for the group, remain with the band. Scott Macpherson, another Bellinghamster, joined them somewhere along the way to play sax. The other players, keyboardist Eliot Gray, trumpeter Ray Larsen, and guitarist Andy Short, all from the Seattle area, found one another through the University of Washington’s music school.  Recently, Tazlyn Gue, who studied music at Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts, became their vocalist and doubles on the flute. In fact,  they are all accomplished musicians, who studied classical and jazz at college. (Jon is also making a name for himself as a classical tubist and composer.) They all also perform with other bands, but it’s The Fabulous Party Boys to which they are first and foremost dedicated.

The Fabulous Party Boys tuba player, Jon Hansen, provides the bottom line for the band's driving funk music.
The Fabulous Party Boys tuba player, Jon Hansen, provides the bottom line for the band’s driving funk music.

They still play ‘cover’ tunes, but most of their music is now their own; full of hard-driving complicated rhythms, upbeat, funky melody lines; tight horns accented by the sounds from Jon’s amazing electric tuba, and Taz’s vocals, which swings from a sparky,bubbling voice on one end to a funky growl on the other. As What’s Up Magazine’s Steven Riley writes: “…their savvy contemporary style of funk elicited fantasies of Michel de Montaigne; it was a merge between serious intellectual speculation, casual anecdotes, and personal narrative. … Needless to say, the Fabulous Party Boys were brilliantly playful entertainers and musicians.”

Trumpet player Ray Larsen of the Fabulous Party Boys funk band playing some tight licks during a performance at the Wild Buffalo in Bellingham.
Trumpet player Ray Larsen of the Fabulous Party Boys funk band playing some tight licks during a performance at the Wild Buffalo in Bellingham.

The band appears at clubs and venues all over the Seattle area, but upon occasion will come back to Bellingham where we can still go, just as we have for years, to hear their music. When that happens, I usually end up photographing the band as they play for their long-time followers and new fans. At their upcoming show at Wild Buffalo this Friday, the band will be performing music from their newest CD, “The Fabulous Party Boys”. It’s among their best yet.  You can bet, that I, along with many others who’ve watched and listened to them grow, not only as kids but as musicians, over the years will be there. I hope, if you’re around, you’ll be there too or catch them another time when they play at a location nearer you.

Opening up for The Fabulous Party Boys on March 6 will be the hip-hop band, The Bad Tenants, which also got its start in Bellingham. But that’s another story for another blog post!

Singer Tazlyn Gue of the Fabulous Party Boys at the mic with guitarist Andy Short, sax player Scott McPherson and Jon Hansen on tuba at the Wild Buffalo in Bellingham
Singer Tazlyn Gue of the Fabulous Party Boys at the mic with guitarist Andy Short, sax player Scott Macpherson and Jon Hansen on tuba at the Wild Buffalo in Bellingham

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