Maxwell's brought the funk to Hoboken Wednesday night with a triple threat of groovy soul bands – The NotForNothins, WUPA and Fuse.
Hailing from Brooklyn, NY, The NotForNothins are a six-piece band described by singer Ben Carlin as "garage soul." He and bassist Adam Milat began writing and playing two years ago, but it was not until the additions of Kevin Omen on guitar, Mikey Palms on drums, Greg Morabito on percussion and the sweet vocals of Ta-Tanisha that the band became whole.
Though playing only their third show as a full group, The NotForNothins sounded like they had been honing their 70s funk and soul sound in smoky lounges for years. Carlin's raspy vocals complemented Ta-Tanisha's smooth voice as they belted out songs like "Just Another Day" and "Ain't No Silver Lining," which the band closed with.
"We're all record geeks and into experimental music styles," said guitarist Kevin Omen. "We're all into cool old soul records from the 60s."
Around 10:30 p.m., New Brunswick's WUPA took the club by storm with their brand of funk-rock, and after just the second song, feet were moving.
Formed around 2004 by Wilfredo Coriano, Jr., Uton Onyejekwe, Patrick Bridge and Archie Joyner (whose initials form W.U.P.A. – get it?), the members had all sung with acapella groups and choirs at Rutgers University. They added backing instrumentation with Mike Gonzales on electric guitar, Travis Nilan on bass and Jeff Fernandes on drums, but WUPA still maintains their acapella influence.
Singer Patrick Bridge calls their style, "Harmony-based rap," which also varies from "classic rock to Latin feels."
They cite Earth, Wind and Fire; the Beatles; Crosby, Stills and Nash and Michael Jackson as influences. On songs like "Veto," there is a distinct Beach Boys and Sublime influence, and Bridge agrees.
And while Bridge, Coriano and Onyejekwe all share vocal duties, each still managed to stand out. Coriano took the mic on "Walk on By," an old-school pop song that he jokes, "Was written by the Jonas Brothers."
By the time Fuse took the stage around 11:15 p.m., the crowd was ready to dance – or at least pump their fists in the air. The group was originally formed to fuse together Jimi Hendrix-style guitar rock with socially conscious raps. It comes together sounding like the Roots, or Rage Against the Machine (whose song "Bulls on Parade" the band covered).
The group was formed in 2001 in New Brunswick, with X on guitar, Toast on bass, Mr. Pokket on drums, Jack on keyboards and Soul Qloc as drum machine percussionist and MC. Main rapper Silent Knight joined the group about a year and a half ago, after his own success as a solo artist.
They all agree that everyone brings something unique to the musical genre they've created, which they call "soul rock."
"It's hard to pin down influences," said Silent Knight. "Every member might say something different."
It's true—Toast mentions KRS-One and A Tribe Called Quest, while Mr. Pokket cites James Brown and Black Sabbath.
They opened with "Korbel-ebration," a song whose title is meant to be a sarcastic take on rappers popping bottles of expensive champagne. Hands were up in the air when they played "Get on the Record" and "Victory Lap," a song with guest vocals by MC Kon.
"Extended family member" M. Josephine, a petite singer with a big voice, joined the group on "Pressure" and "Good Morning" to inject some serious soul into the set.
"Hip-hop's a young enough genre that there's a lot left to explore," said Mr. Pokket before their performance.
Fuse's seamless blending of classic rock riffs, 60s soul jams and old school-style flows from MC's who know their stuff prove that the exploration is already underway, and fans are interested.
"I hadn't heard (Fuse) before," said Kelly Markowitz, 23, of Hoboken, "But the way they mixed up all of these styles was really cool."