Good Funk Shui

Live Review from Wild Boar Music Festival 野豬音樂節:

1. I’m Not The Droid You’re Looking For
2. Do You
3. Taxi Driver
4. Darkside
5. Butterfly in Paradise

Individually talented, collectively overwhelming.

That was my first thought after Good Funk Shui’s set. With a gold-plated guitarist Geoff, whose effortlessly blistering solos stole the show from the opening track (I’m Not The Droid…), to the flute-wielding bongo player Floro who gave me painful flashbacks to recorder lessons, to the jaunty musical theatrics of lead vocalist Megan — it’s a sonic bombshell. I’m no stickler for genre conformity, but these conflating styles posed a question for me: what is their vision? What is their unifying thread, something which every band needs to transform a handful of disparate artists into a combined force of nature? And was this thread being overshadowed by the volume of incongruent sound?

That unifying thread is embodied in frontman and drummer, Nate Wong. The highly adept percussion savant has headlined venues across the globe, as well as having been featured in other bands of all genres (including Hong Kong-based Nowhere Boys). His presence is a positive and permeating one, radiating his passion even whilst behind a drum kit as he takes time to introduce the players around him. His star power is an undeniable lynchpin, vital to the band’s warm reception from the audience as they hooted and waved back excitedly.

Peppy folk-funk tunes Do You and Taxi Driver were heavy on the storytelling, a cross between Lily Allen and something from Broadway’s more modern catalogue. The songs’ folksy lilts were accented cleverly with keyboards and percussion however, they did not need a distracting flute soloing over it, spoiling the effect with unnecessary texture. Flute music has its place, but I doubt that place is with poppy, piano-led musical theatre vocals.

Darkside was a personal favourite, and featured another brutal guitar solo amongst smatterings of generic accompanying melodies – including occasional repetitions of what (I am pretty certain) was the intro to Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. Not really in the vein of bluesy funk like the rest of the troupe at this point, but hey. Geoff is clearly a classic rocker amongst the pigeons.

Butterfly in Paradise unfortunately felt extremely piecemeal. It was an example of the lack of correspondence between the musicians, with each one vying for the audience’s attention rather than playing as a collective.

That is not to say that Good Funk Shui are in any way bad. If anything, maybe they are all too talented to be congruent with each other. It would be criminal not to point out the deft skill of bassist JackiZ, Jerold’s funky keyboard licks, and the slick jazz lounge aesthetics of saxophone player Chaichon.

On paper, it should work.
In practice, some refocusing and conceptualising would go hand in hand to make it so.
– Jasmine Gould-Wilson

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Performances by Good Funk Shui: