Orgone Delivered Blazing Funk Performance Under Santa Fe Skies
Words and Photographs by Jake Sudek
Published June 29, 2016
A local rag’s descriptor read, “Forming in 1999, an 8-piece funk band from L.A….”, which promoted ideas of amazing potential for the band performing at The Railyard in Santa Fe, New Mexico that evening. Any band with roots dating back almost two decades, that still actively tours, must be worth checking out. When exceptionally accomplished, funk can be a transcendental experience and to miss Orgone might be a lost opportunity on a mystical ride that might take one higher.
The band was welcomed to the stage with gratitude and excitement. From the opening on, they reciprocated. Their single set spanned the majority of their discography and included a variety of flavors and textures. High energy, spirit sheering funk and legitimate soul were the mainstays, while all manner of flavors were dished up throughout the night. Although half of the numbers came from their 2015 release, Beyond The Sun, there were no noticeable factors that delineated between the older material and the new. This seamless dynamic carried over to the two covers of the set: “Rock Me Again and Again” by James Brown collaborator, Lyn Collins, and Curtis Mayfield’s “Let’s Do It Again.” These numbers were performed as if they were uniquely written by the band, with justice, respect, and diligence appropriately served.
Sergio Rios, founding member and guitarist, is a force to be reckoned with. His reserved off stage demeanor, in retrospect to his performance, seems more of a function of conserving energy rather than a displayed artistic nuance. From the beginning of the set to the final notes, this man moved with wild, reckless abandon with his feet, head, and fret board, without error and remained attuned to what the band was doing. He always sounded in equilibrium. His solos were almost more heavy metal than funk, but, somehow, he made it work with incredible appropriateness, reflected, on multiple occasions, with looks of amazement, post-solo, from the front row who had been just been leveled.
Dan Hastie, the keyed component to the group, executed the notes with restrained facial expressions, resigned and focused, as he floated between his four sets of keys to produce pieces that both contributed to, and drove, the sound. Throughout the night, Hastie often dropped his impassivity and grinned widely to the cheer of the crowd.
Orgone, formed in 1999, has seen more than a few revolving faces come through its doors since the group’s inception. Upon experiencing this ‘tour de funk,’ it is hard to imagine that any incarnation, past or future, would stray far from the foundations that are obviously ingrained in the band. It was easy to tell that in both founding members, the joy of playing remained fully embraced.
No true funk band would be a funk band without the crucial driving tempo of the tympanic and low-end section of the drums, percussion, and bass. These positions were held down seismically by Sam Halterman, Will Phillips, and Dale Jennings, respectively.
Halterman, a fifth generation L.A. area citizen, spoke with warm regard about his family pre-show, their support of his direction as a musician, and a rich history of artists in his heredity. His personal solidarity was reflected in his playing, as his ability to switch from up-beat, bootie shakin’ funk, requiring drive and determination, followed by slow soul tunes, that demanded attentiveness and care, was without falter and tastefully individualistic.
Phillips, percussionist extraordinaire, was set stage right in a corner reserved for him and his seemingly endless supply of metal clad accoutrements. Seeing his setup, one might wonder if he actually knew how many pieces resided in his cache. From wood blocks and Chajchas to a multiple hand drum and tom surround, this man came prepared to play. Throughout the show, Phillips took no breaks and delivered his accents with affirmation, while continuously supporting the conversation of the song, utilizing most of what he had brought. For those actively listening, it was refreshing to hear a percussionist contributing, no matter the tune, with the right volume and instrumentation.
Dale Jennings, from his appearance, looked like he should have been carrying bass duties for a punk group rather than a funk band. Clad in jeans and a t-shirt, supported by a mid-length shag haircut, and a tough looking set of shades, his formidable appearance was matched by his thunderous consummation. From the opening groove, it was apparent that the only punk around was the one who misjudged his character or ability. This man was not only multi-faceted with his gear, but creative as well, adding spontaneity to the glue that held the patterns together. No portion of the pectrum was off limits, as he appeared comfortable in the complete scope of the capabilities of his instrument, playing both the high and low ends of the register. His facial expressions, that ranged from looks of ecstatic satisfaction to gritty scowls, registered that he was as entertained by the convergent product as much as any of his compatriots or attentive supporters in attendance.
Ricky Luchese, on trombone, seemed like the type of guy who is always smiling. From the time he wakes up to the time he calls it a day, a quirk is discernable. He carried this infectious trait to the stage. As one of the newest members, his demeanor was of true excitement to perform with such a group of talented musicians. He was not above displaying his exuberance, often seen jumping up and down or posturing with his ‘bone in anticipation of his next exhaled blast, always accompanied by his tireless, ecstatic beam.
JJ Kirkpatrick carried the second half of the brass department on trumpet. Another newer face to the line up, his savvy bursts were solid in the choreographed portions of composition, as well as in the opportunities for improvisation that were left open for his displays. His enthusiasm, although more subdued than his cyclonic companion, was evident as he too had astonishment in his gaze.
As a horn division, these gentlemen played wonderfully well together. Obviously well rehearsed, their lines were in perfect sync and no charts or sheet music could be seen from the floor. Their chemistry was reflected in their skill and expression and it was easy to detect that they enjoyed executing individually, as a section, and as part of an ensemble.
Adryon de Leon brought an authority to the vocal slot, surpassed by few, both past and present. Her control and stamina captured the ear from the first line she sang, encapsulating the audience for the entirety of the show. Her confidence and emotion conveyed genuineness. Her authentic talent brought a full range to the stage, sweeping the scope from ear-splitting highs to low, soul grumblings, each appropriate in place and domain. Her efforts in singing were only matched by her desire to pull the congregation into the celebration happening on stage, as she called out to the sea of faces continuously, who graciously accepted her invitation.
Collectively, what makes this band stand out is their level of compatibility with one another and the prowess with which they play. There were no noticeable tensions on stage and there were a multitude of genuine smiles exchanged, between both band and audience. No one seemed hurried and every member was given their due without haste or brevity. Their energy was maintained, in spite of the unusually high temperatures, and by the end it seemed as though the band could have continued on regardless. This show marked the final stop on their tour and it was easy to see that, despite exhaustion, they would happily live to funk another day. As proposed by Wilhelm Reich in the 1930’s, Orgone is a universal life force with the potential to coalesce and render structure on any scale. By definition, it is hard to tell whether Reich was actually speaking of esoteric energies of his time or the 8-piece funk band from Los Angeles that would be part of ours.
Orgone, 06.18.16, The Railyard, Santa Fe, NM
It’s What You Do, Can You Do It, Do What You Came To Do, Funky Nassau, Percussion>Take You Higher, New You, Rock Me Again and Again, Down,Down,Down, Hambone, Ritual, Let’s Do It Again, People Beyond The Sun, Don’t Stop, It’s Time Tonight, Picture On The Wall
Giving You My Love, Sophisticated Honky