Five Alarm Funk is all about intense epic arrangements, heavy groove and tons of fun. (Brendan Meadows)

Music sensation Five Alarm Funk brings exploding sounds, fiery rhythms to Chilliwack

Energetic eight-man Vancouver band Five Alarm Funk ready to fire up Chilliwack Cultural Centre

Eight members, drum kit, timbales, congas, bass, guitars, trumpet, saxophone, and an absurdly wild collection of outfits? Welcome to Five Alarm Funk.

On March 21, this Vancouver-based band will heat up the Chilliwack Cultural Centre with their intense epic arrangements, heavy groove and a whole lot of funk.

Gypsy-rock, afro-funk, Latin, ska and punk, Five Alarm Funk is over a decade deep into their career and have created their own specific brand of music. With costume changes, character cameos and enough energy to fuel the entire night, their theatrics are what make their live shows such an experience.

In 2003, first-time drummer Tayo Branston and guitarist Gabe Boothroyd met at a Vancouver house party where they played, which was the start of something incredibly special. They went from playing parties to playing gigs locally to a bus tour across Canada and into the States. Along the way, other musicians started showing up and joining them and the crowds continued to grow.

“We all loved heavy funk like James Brown and Tower of Power,” Branston explains. “But we were also inspired by everything from Tito Puente to Antibalas to Frank Zappa. Their fantastic musicianship and the amount of fun they had was incredible. We wanted that for ourselves too… but it just wasn’t going on in Vancouver at that time.”

They gathered other musicians who shared their love of adventurous groove-driven players and called themselves Five Alarm Funk.

Their lineup expanded to include Eli Bennett on the saxophone, Oliver Gibson on the guitar, Jason Smith on the bass, Tom Towers on the congas, Ricki Valentine on the timbales and Kent Wallace on the trumpet. The added musicians had their sound exploding with fiery rhythms and punchy horns that perfectly combined with the gang-chant vocals. They took shape organically, and found their sound by picking up their instruments, kicking off a beat and winging it.

“It was never a structured thing,” Branston says. “There was no rehearsing, no writing. We were just improvising and having fun. If we ended up stumbling across something really cool, we’d maybe work it out to see if it might turn into a song. But we weren’t thinking about shows. We weren’t thinking about where this might lead us. We were just playing grooves.”

Their audience urged them to put together a set for an actual gig, and while it took time, Five Alarm Funk officially debuted at The Fairview Pub to an audience of three hundred people. From there, the band moved to Richards On Richards, where Five Alarm packed their 800 capacity again and again, until closing night. Word spread, and they started doing van tours that eventually grew into a 36-day, cross-continental trek involving 30 shows from Vancouver to Fredericton. They continued to grow, pushing as far south as Chattanooga, where they took the Riverbend Festival by storm, and as far as Taiwan.

Some bands want to change the world. Five Alarm Funk’s goal is much simpler. They want you to sweat. So join them for what will be an unforgettable evening of punchy grooves and a frenzy of funk.

Five Alarm Funk is coming to the Chilliwack Cultural Centre on March 21 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35 for adults, $32 for seniors and $30 for youth, and can be purchased at the Centre Box Office, online at www.chilliwackculturalcentre.ca, or by calling 604-391-SHOW(7469).

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