By DJ Dave Hoffenberg
Tuesday, March 5, is not only Town Meeting Day, it’s also Fat Tuesday or Marti Gras! To get you in the mood, the Pickle Barrel has the Funky Dawgz Brass Band on Thursday, Feb. 28. You can expect a high energy, dance, funk and hip-hop infused party. I had the pleasure on interviewing Tommy Weeks, tenor saxophonist for the band. He also plays clarinet, flute and piano but laughingly said those are not coming to a stage anytime soon.
Joining Weeks are: Mike Marsters on trombone, Marvin McNeill on trombone, Colin Walters on alto saxophone, Aaron Eaddy on trumpet, Josh Murphy on sousaphone and Jon Singngam on percussion. The guys met at UConn where they were members of the marching band. Back in 2012, McNeill who was the assistant director of the marching band asked if they wanted to start a brass band. They all thought it was a great idea. Weeks said, “It turned into a touring band, almost by accident.”
They named themselves after the UConn mascot, the Huskies. They started out doing University events and then did some outreach to high schools. Weeks said, “We learned all the New Orleans brass band repertoire and then we decided to write out own music so we could have creative input.” Their first gig was in Hartford and all their friends came out. It was a huge party so they decided they wanted to do more of that. Weeks said, “We started seeing where else we could play in the area and the next thing you know, we’re playing in Europe. It’s pretty funny, we definitely would not have thought we would end up in Europe.”
Weeks graduated in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in music and that’s when they started playing out. They first played Europe in 2016 and now go there often. The first time they went to Spain was to play the four day FEMUKA festival in El Espinar which Weeks said was amazing and life changing. He adds, “It was eye opening. Why did we just do this one thing? We learned from that.” Weeks added, “It was pretty well attended and received at every show. They love our sound and love everything brass. They love to dance and we give off a lot of energy so I feel it translated well.”
I saw them at the 2013 Gathering of the Vibes in Bridgeport, Connecticut roaming around the park and playing music. In 2014 I saw them join Dispatch on stage to play “The General.” A year later, Dispatch invited them to MSG to be the horn section for their two sold-out shows. Pete Francis of Dispatch said, “I just thought the energy The Funky Dawgz bring is really infectious.” They’ve also joined Lettuce on stage at the Vibes. Weeks said, “There’s been a lot of really cool opportunities being a horn band because you can double up being a horn section.”
Festivals are now a big part of their summer tour. Some of their festival highlights are playing Camp Bisco, Okeechobee, in Florida where they Opened for Wiz Khalifa, Usher and The Roots and closing out the Peach Music Festival. This summer they’ll be doing a headlining set at the Hartford Jazz Festival as well as many other fests.
The band is engulfed in the spirit and traditions of New Orleans and have played down there a few times doing festivals and clubs. One of their highlights is being hired to play Tulane Crawfest. Weeks said, “That was really sweet to be hired as a brass band for a college in New Orleans. That was a pretty big thing since we’re not from there. We got some pretty weird looks when we announce we’re from Connecticut. Every time they’re so confused. I think it’s funny. That’s a good compliment to us because we do a good job interpreting the music.”
They’ve played with a lot of New Orleans bands like the Soul Rebels, Trombone Shorty and Big Sam’s Funky Nation. “They all respect us but I think it’s because of how much respect we show them. We’ve studied their music but also studied the culture and heritage of the city. It’s something we’re very interested in as well,” Weeks said.
They have two albums out and are really proud of their latest, “Place to Be.” They’ve been writing material this past year in anticipation of their third. They all constantly write on their own and if they feel good with it, they’ll present it to the group. Weeks’ favorite style is when they create a tune collectively. They’ll jam at rehearsal with each guy improvising his part and come up with stuff on the fly. He said, “That’s the way I get the most excited about writing music when we’re all in the same room together.”
Photo by Chad Anderson Photography
Funky Dawgzz Brass Band