By Kelly McKay
Spirits were high at the Arcata Theater Lounge Friday night, Oct. 18, as funk and jazz band Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe teamed up with legendary one-man-band Zach Deputy. These masters of funk provided the diverse crowd with a super funky get-down on the dance floor. This show was given the theme “Ray Charles Boogaloo Dance Party,” rightfully so as the group covered numerous classic tunes written by Ray Charles.
Karl Denson gained his status as funk legend as a member of the Lenny Kravitz Band, Slightly Stoopid, as well as co-founding and leading Bay Area boogaloo band The Greyboy Allstars. Undoubtedly, Denson shines brightest as the front man of his own band Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. Guests attending Denson’s shows on the West Coast are graced with Zach Deputy’s presence, whose contribution to this boogaloo boogie absolutely amplified the dance party from funkadelic to ultra-funkadelic with his soulful vocals. Zach Deputy is known for his solo performances in which he displays his talents as a multi-instrumentalist. Deputy utilizes a looping pedal to create a big band sound that’s all his own.
The audience began to trickle into the Arcata Theater Lounge around 9 p.m. as Deputy took the stage first with his solo performance. The usual crowd at the more common electronic shows the venue hosts is typically composed of younger college kids. But on this evening, there was grey hair, dread locks, clean cuts, high heals, you name it. The music bridged generation gaps and those with completely different styles found themselves shoulder to shoulder, getting down with their fellow funk lovers.
Seated at his drum set with an array of stringed instruments and electronic equipment, Deputy kicked off the night with upbeat soul jams that warmed up the crowd, which started off small. Deputy was dressed to impress playing in his shades, an homage to Ray Charles, and a slick white coat. Deputy played a little over an hour, and many members of the crowd were disappointed that his set was over.
“I was hoping that he would play longer,” attendee Aylea Maxwell said. “A musician as talented as he is deserves a 2 hour set.”
The crowd grew anxious awaiting Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe to take the stage as the line at the bar expanded. When Denson and his crew finally took the stage, everyone rushed to the front of the dance floor to shake what their mamas gave them. Eli Kagan, a 23 year-old music enthusiast, had a fabulous time mingling with the diverse crowd.
“Everyone there had a huge smile on their face,” Kagan said. “The crowd was so pumped. I don’t think there was a single person sitting down.”
Denson delivered a high energy set with smooth bass lines with few vocals. Denson displayed his talents as a saxophonist, flutist and vocalist. When there were vocals, Denson touched all the bases between soulful and shouting. In the last hour of the set, Deputy joined Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe on stage. The epic combination of musicians on stage started covering Ray Charles songs, with Denson blowing us away on the sax and Deputy singing his heart out as well as jamming on the guitar. When the group covered Charles classic “I’ve Got a Woman” the crowd went nuts. Cameron Mitchell, 25 year-old Humboldt State Graduate claimed this was his favorite moment of the night.
“I loved watching these modern funk and jazz heroes covering Ray Charles,” Mitchell excitedly reflected. “I think we all know a woman like Charles sings about in ‘I’ve Got a Woman.'”
During the encore of the performance Denson requested a few ladies to join him on stage to help with some back up vocals. Some women rushed the stage, and a few bashfully agreed. Denson and 15 or so participants belted out Charles “Hit the Road Jack.” The crowd participation gave the whole event an intimate charm that sent attendees home buzzing with excitement.