Funktapuss, as the name suggests, is a groovy, dynamic funk band dedicated to getting down above all else. The band has evolved over the years to become one of the Cape’s most trusted purveyors of funk. They have entertained thousands over the years and boast a two-hour long set with a repertoire of over 80 tunes. The group will appear at the Ritz in Oak Bluffs on Friday, Jan. 4, at 10 pm. The performance is sure to have audience members moving and grooving along with bouncing bass lines, soulful vocals, and driving saxophone.
Funktapuss was originally conceived of as a trio called Purple Monkey Dishwasher in the late 1990s when high school marching bandmates, Ryan Tivey, Brian “Beek” Vanderbeek, and Chris Santos joined forces to create and cover a blend of classic funk and soul music. Inspired by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Parliament Funkadelic, Maceo Parker, and Victor Wooten, the group honed their skills and ended up playing at bars on Cape Cod before they had even graduated high school. Their main haunt was the beloved Hyannis institution, Harry’s Blues Bar and Cajun Restaurant, which closed its doors in 2010. “I was working at Harry’s — I started there when I was young,” Tivey told The Times, “I was able to work the door and worked my way up to booking bands, and I was able to book us on Monday nights so we had a gig.” Tivey went on to study music education at the Berklee College of Music, and his love of funk only grew from there.
The band’s name was inspired by an image from the album cover of jazz bassist Victor Wooten’s 2005 effort Soul Circus in which Wooten is depicted playing bass with eight arms. The band members, who knew Wooten for years through bass lessons and the area funk scene, received his blessing to use the title of the image, “Funktapuss,” as their band name. With an ever-evolving lineup of musicians and an eclectic blend of cover and original songs, the name is true to the band’s character.
After the release of their self-titled album and subsequent national tours, the band mates took a much-needed break to spend time with their growing families. When Vanderbeek joined The Navy, the group went on hiatus and didn’t play together for seven years, but their invigorated, second generation band members are burning the midnight oil to keep the Cape funky and share their music. “We decided to do our thing here on the Cape,” Mr. Tivey says, “We love the bar gigs and really want to get into weddings and functions.” The new group, which is comprised of different instrumentalists depending on the gig, has settled into a regional approach that is showing signs of success. Frontman and vocalist Latez Crowley has been a welcome addition to the group with dynamic performances and a larger-than-life persona that emanates from stages large and small. It’s clear through his presence that Crowley wants to see audience members enjoy themselves and experience the music alongside him.
The band has a special appreciation for their shows on Martha’s Vineyard, and they have the complex logistical operations of lugging gear by boat down to a science. “It’s worth the boat ride,” Tivey says of their trips to the Island, “Playing bars on the Cape, it’s hard to captivate an audience, but they make it easy on the Vineyard. There is an energy of real music lovers.” Funktapuss performances at the Ritz in Oak Bluffs have a nostalgic quality for Tivey as well. “I’ve been telling people this — Martha’s Vineyard has an energy that I compare to what Harry’s used to have. It’s a special energy where everyone who’s there appreciates the music,” Tivey tells The Times, “When I go to M.V. I feel that, and I always know it’s going to be a great show.”
Funktapuss performs at the Ritz in Oak Bluffs on Friday, Jan. 4, from 10 to 11:30 p.m. They are also scheduled to perform at Grumpy’s Pub in Woods Hole on Jan. 19 in a reunion show featuring all original band members and a horn section.