When there is a cover band in the Raleigh/Durham area by the name of Funk Sandwich, you just have to know more about it.
“It was us having a show and, then, trying to come up with a name on the fly, during the middle of an ice storm,” says drummer Chad Campbell, regarding the name. For a minute there, this crew of N.C.-based, veteran performers almost referred to themselves as another form of sandwich – until they went on UrbanDictionary.com and discovered that that term was used for more sexual matters.
“I think (Funk Sandwich) is a good name,” says sax man Courtney Watkins. “It stands out. It identifies the type of music that we play, because we’re predominantly old-school, heavy funk with a lot of New Orleans influence.”
Over a year ago, Watkins assembled the members of Funk Sandwich –which also includes keyboardist Alan Celeste, bassist John Wolk, guitarist Dallas Smith and guitarist/vocalist Eric Chesson – when Raleigh Brewing Company asked Watkins if he wanted to play music in the brewery’s taproom.
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“They wanted something, like, intimate or have me play a solo or something,” says Watkins.
“I said, ‘I’ll do it, but I want to have a rhythm section. I want to come out and bring something funky. So, I just reached out to some buddies I know that can get funky.”
Funk Sandwich eventually evolved into a full-fledged traveling band. Once these guys, who have all performed with each other in different groups and venues in the past, explain how they go about creating live music, you soon realize that Funk Sandwich isn’t that wacky a band name.
“It’s kind of like, the sandwich is never the same,” explains Celeste.
“We won’t even play the same song the same twice, because half of it is a solo. So, whatever’s happening right then in that room is gonna happen. Whatever I’ll hear (Courtney) play, I’ll play next and Eric will play next and Dallas will play next.”
Considering that most of the members are middle-aged (ages range from 32 to 56), Funk Sandwich is a band whose members not only know what they’re doing as musicians, but know how to have fun doing it.
“We’ll play songs we never even tried before onstage, first time,” admits Chesson. Celeste recalls a recent gig where one such moment occurred: “We played ‘50 Ways to Leave Your Lover’ because I was warming up while everyone else was showing up. And, before we knew it, we did the whole song with a 10-minute instrumental in the center, while everyone was having a good time. We had maybe talked about it once – we never played it!”
“It’s definitely a jam-centric group, for sure,” says Chesson.
They continue to perform all around the Triangle. They’ll be doing a free after-party show at the Pour House Music Hall this Saturday afternoon. At the moment, the musical men of Funk Sandwich are just having fun playing their instruments, and getting audiences turnt-up in the process.
“If it sounds good to us, and we’re having a good time, then it’s gonna sound good to just about anybody, and they’re gonna have a good time,” says Celeste.
“Because we’re pretty picky about what we would like, and we wouldn’t be playing it if it didn’t sound good.”
Who: Funk Sandwich
When: 3 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Pour House Music Hall, 224 S. Blount St., Raleigh
Info: 919-821-1120 or thepourhouse.com