By Will Roper
Photos by Jay Douglass
Feb. 27, 2018
Ozark Mountains roots ‘n’ roll, electronic funk and hip hop and feel-good funk and heavy soul music filled the Bourbon Theatre stage on a chilly Friday night.
The three groups — Opal Agafia and the Sweet Nothings, Sophistafunk and the Kris Lager Band — performed at the Bourbon to a steadily growing crowd throughout the night.
Agafia and her band kicked the night off at 8 p.m., playing an eclectic mixture of country, rock ‘n’ roll and soul music. Much of the music performed came off of the band’s 2016 album, One Down, Forever to Go, with songs like “Yard Sale Dress” and “Sweet Nothings” providing a wide range of tempos and energy.
The group has their roots in the hills of Arkansas, where Agafia first began writing and recording music with various musicians in the region. Over the last two years, Agafia has developed a true string band, with instruments like the fiddle, mandolin, electric guitar and others turning Agafia’s music into the fresh, high-energy performance we saw at the Bourbon.
The Arkansas group was followed by old-school hip hop and funk band, Sophistafunk. Led by lyricist Jack Brown, the band immediately lit up the stage with a funky blend of electronic key riffs, tight drums and thoughtful lyrics. Many of the songs had a dreamy, space-like vibe given off by the keys, with the drums and saxophone reining in the sound to keep it funky and soulful. Rhythmic lyrics were often followed by incredible saxophone solos, greatly showcasing the musicianship of the keys, drums and saxophone trio. Songs off of their 2017 album Real Vibration like “No More War” were indicative of the group’s formidable combination of conscious hip-hop and groovy rock and funk instrumentals.
Sophistafunk has been touring the United States since 2007, when the main trio of Brown, Adam Gold and Emmanuel Washington formed in Syracuse, N.Y. With the addition of a sax player, the group brings a high-energy, thrilling performance wherever they go – and the Bourbon was no exception. The upbeat funk music invited the crowd to immediately leave their seats and join the dance floor on Sophistafunk’s second song. As the set progressed, the level of energy and skill only increased, with excellent lyrics and face-melting saxophone solos throughout the performance. The genre-bending funk and hip-hop group put on an incredible show.
The last band of the night was the Kris Lager Band, a group that seemed to fit perfectly with the sound of Sophistafunk. Led by guitarist, vocalist and frontman Kris Lager, the band’s instrumentation was very similar to the funk band from Syracuse, with the band’s core comprised of sax, drums and bass.
The feel-good soul and funk from the Kris Lager Band had a welcome southern sound compared to Sophistafunk, with many songs off the band’s 2016 album Rise and Shine feeling straight out of New Orleans. The band’s musicianship was top-tier, with a tight and diverse range of music highlighting the star of the show, Lager. Lager’s energy and remarkable voice completely filled the theatre, at times rising high above the band with a soulful, passionate inflection.
Originating from Omaha, the Kris Lager Band has been a staple on the Nebraska music scene for years now, playing many times at local music venues like the Bourbon. The group has also become a well-known band around the Midwest, frequently touring the region and country to spread their flavor of funk rock ‘n’ roll. With the largest crowd of the night at the Bourbon, the Kris Lager Band accomplished that goal and then some with an impressive performance for any music fan.
Overall, all three shows at the Bourbon were spectacular, and each group seemed to complement each other in a unique and enjoyable way.
Will Roper is an editorial intern with KZUM.