- The Bridge Live at the Funk Box
Operating on the cusp of national renown, Baltimore, MD natives The Bridge stayed home (11-24-2004 at The Funk Box) to make their first DVD for public release. The DVD’s audio mix is perfectly crisp, the five camera angles hit all the nooks and the light show by American D.J. (a lighting/effects company) is a constantly scrawling magic marker. Everything was produced and packaged (Farmer’s Tan Productions) with clarity and sensibility.
The Bridge consists of guitarist/lead vocalist Cris Jacobs, electric mandloinist/beatbox/vocalist Kenny Liner, saxophonist Adam Iorfida, bassist/vocalist Ryan Porter and drummer Paul Weinberg. The rhythm team (Porter and Weinberg) is a welded duo and the melodies harmonize through the remaining three members with an ease that shows they’ve played together a lot. Jacobs’ vocals are southern rock mellow and the well-written songs are unobtrusive to the total groove; The Bridge seems to be all about groove.
I’ve involved myself with a couple local bands in my short years, and I think they had what these guys have, if the unmentioned bands had practiced more and focused themselves more devoutly. But, that’s not to say that the local bands ever had a real chance to prosper out there in the large pool everyone’s jumping in these days and you need something outstanding and memorable about your sound to make an ever-jaded fanbase travel to and dance for you (the DVD’s audience shots attest that The Bridge has an energetic local following; with slated festival spots, their road fans should also grow). So, while some of The Bridge’s jams seem to be headed for unique explosions (Jacobs is the most creative member and his fingers are constantly marching, able to hold down when another band member needs a reminder of where the music’s going, and I’ve already stated that the rhythm team is concrete), the jams tend to ring of frenzied funk noodling that my interest doesn’t mind drifting away from occasionally same as the unnamed local bands. Jacobs’ picking doesn’t drop notes, Liner tags Jacobs’ jams with tenor packed mandolin streams and Iorfida stands to the side (this always makes saxophonists look lazy they’re not) until his moments to shine: he rips most of his solos apart. Within this mix of tight rhythm and spiraling solos though, I just don’t hear anything revolutionary. I have to ask myself when hearing a band for the first time, "Is this band blending styles in a way I’ve not heard or are they creating a new sound altogether?" And, if they aren’t doing either, then they just don’t have the garlic, that special and completely original something to catapult them into my thoughts, even when I’m not seeing them live or hearing one of their products.
A highlight is Liner’s beatboxing over the rest of the band ("Drop the Beat"). He starts off sounding as though he were playing a didgeridoo, goes directly into more standard beatbox phrasing, and is soon a part of the mix, with Iorfida presenting one of his more controlled solos. Liner probably won’t trump Biz Markie, but at least he’s shooting for him.
Fan interviews about the inevitability of the band making their national mark, an intimate Iorfida warm up session backstage, a backstage band interview about influences (they’re diverse Grateful Dead gets heavy mention), a Jacobs/Liner beatbox with acoustic mandolin and guitar jaunt, a written history of The Funk Box and a bonus tracks section ("Jomotion" > "Rising Sun" > "Jomotion," "Brother Don’t") make the bonus menu one of the better and fullest that I’ve seen on any band’s DVD.
If you’re generally a funk fan, you’ll like The Bridge’s music (and in turn this DVD), but I’m just not sure you’ll hear anything here you’ve not already heard from some other band, in the same general way.