by Casey Welsch
“Some band from the next town over isn’t supposed to be this good.”
That’s what my friend from New Jersey said about Satchel Grande the last time I saw them, more than a year ago, at least. It was the first time he had seen them, or even heard of them. He was right. They were that good.
Omaha’s funky octet has been rocking mustaches and Blublockers for a while, and they’ve never sounded as good as they do now. Their sound is big enough to fill any room with clean horns, slinky rhythms, precise guitars and some fonky-ass lyrics about gettin’ down and drinking Old Style in the rain.
That was never more apparent than on Saturday at Lincoln’s Bourbon Theatre. I walked in right as the band launched into their first number, and I heard it at the door. When I got into the spacious main room, expecting to see scores of people dancing to this party funk, I was disappointed to see a sparsely dotted bar, a few tables with people talking and absolutely no one on the dancefloor.
But Satchel Grande didn’t let that slow them down. Even though few were paying them any mind, the eight piece was up there getting funkier than any band from the next town over deserves to be. You’d be hard pressed to name anyone in Nebraska who does this kind of music better than Satchel Grande, and they were eager to prove why.
It’s a bit disappointing, really. Here funk and soul music is having a revival on the national stage, with soul artists like Adele and Cee-Lo charting high, artists like Aloe Blacc and Black Joe Lewis and Sharon Jones rising to national attention, and a lion’s share of modern hip-hop sampling the hell out of the '70s. You would think people would absolutely eat up funk of this quality coming from home.
But alas, the dancefloor remained empty. A couple strolled out for one song but then sat back down. A trio of dancers stuck around for a few tunes, but then sat back down until the break. Why wasn’t anybody feeling the funk?
That’s a loaded question, because clearly Satchel Grande was. They were pleading for people to get up and get down. Each song they played, they tried to one up themselves. With each song the sound got bigger. The rhythms got looser. Then they took a break.
Ol’ Moanin’ Corpse, a DJ who spins classic funk and soul finds on vinyl, played before and between SG’s sets. His sets are carefully crafted of both unknown funky gems and floor-shaking classics, but still no one seemed to take notice.
Ol’ Moanin’ Corpse. Hmm. Perhaps a fitting name for what funk has really become. You can dress it up and put it on the radio with some bling and a drinking problem but you can’t make people respect it anymore.
But then act two began. Satchel Grande retook the stage and played another one to an empty dancefloor, but a new crowd of people started to filter in. They said the next song would make people want to get up and shake, and I guess it did. Suddenly, people started to make it to the dancefloor to shake it low and slow to the groove. The dancefloor wasn’t by any means full, but these people clearly came to dance.
Suddenly, everyone seemed to be into it, out of nowhere. The dancefloor got hot, the people in their seats were fixated on the stage, tapping their feet along with the funky beats. The band responded in kind. Their energy clearly spiked. The solos got longer and lankier. Everyone could feel the funk.
For another hour, the band and audience continued to make up for lost funk, until it was time for the big band to go. But the audience was feeling it. They called for an encore, and Satchel Grande still had one left in them.
After that, everyone was thoroughly into it, left wanting more. If only they had showed up an hour earlier — they would have had all the funk they wanted.
Satchel Grande was there the entire time.
Casey Welsch is an editorial intern for Hear Nebraska. He’s been dressing up funk and putting it on the radio for three years. You can contact him at email@example.com.