Lundi Gras is an interesting time during the Mardi Gras season. Revelers take in the Infant Mystics parade and tend to use the night to recuperate before the final celebration the next day. But the Monday can be a slow night for live music, unless the featured band is something special.
Well, Callaghan’s certainly found something special for its Lundi Gras celebration this past February in the form of The Heard, and the large funk powerhouse has been invited to return.
The seven-piece funk powerhouse contrasts its occasional slow grooves with upbeat funk anthems that keep the crowd moving.
Recalling the band’s Lundi Gras debut in the Port City, bassist Mike Starr admits that they were just as surprised as those in attendance.
“We actually hadn’t been aware of how big of a celebration Mardi Gras is in Mobile until those shows,” said Starr. “It was an awesome experience to be playing in Mobile during that time because everyone was in such a festive mood, and our music became part the celebration.”
The Heard calls Chicago home, a city that boasts numerous musicians of all talents and styles. However, The Heard is one of the many Windy City bands are proving there is more to Chicago’s music scene than just rock and blues. Eventually, their exploration of the funk led them to organize road trips south to experience the sounds of the Big Easy.
“Beyond having a passion for this music, as music lovers and musicians, it was taking trips to New Orleans during Jazz Fest that provided lots of inspiration for wanting to turn that love into a formal project,” Starr said.
Once they found the funk, The Heard delivered an intense style to one venue in particular — aliveOne, know as “Chicago’s Only All Live Jukebox.” The unique watering hole specializes in bringing its patrons the best and brightest in funk and soul and The Heard made quite an impression on aliveOne staff, they were recruited for a weekly Thursday night residency. The band used its regular gig to perfect its sound and spread it to contemporaries.
Larger venues in the city soon welcomed The Heard and eventually, its seven members found themselves performing at Metro Chicago, Lincoln Hall, Congress Theater and Concord Music Hall. They also discovered new fans as a backing band for former Galactic vocalist Theryl “Houseman” DeClouet and as openers for Slightly Stoopid, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, The Mike Dillon Band and many more.
Eventually, The Heard began touring extensively across the nation, finding their niche on the festival scene and providing stellar sets at events such as Bear Creek Music Festival, North Coast Music Festival and String Cheese Incident’s Suwanee Hulaween.
While The Heard has made the most of being on tour, the road has not come without its challenges and with seven members, Starr is not afraid to admit it can sometimes be wearisome. However, he explained that all the complications seem to fade on stage, and the bond the members share through their love of funk rises above the negativity.
“There are plenty of challenges, of course,” Starr said. “The more band members in a group, the more mouths there are to feed, and the less physical and mental space you have to yourself while on the road. Touring involves dealing with a constant stream of curveballs. You have to embrace that to a certain degree and learn to roll with it, problem solve and maintain a positive attitude.”
Even though The Heard has been together for years, the group has yet to release a studio album. So far, fans have gotten their recorded fix through YouTube and live tracks featured on the band’s website. However, the group recently headed to the West Coast to lay down tracks with Sergio Rios, one of the brains behind a funk band called Orgone.
“It was a thrill to work with one of our favorite musicians, and we’re super excited about how great the mixes sound,” Starr said. “We wanted to record with Sergio because we’re huge fans of his sound and production style, and knew it would be a great fit for what we do.”
The Heard’s studio album is complete, but the nature of today’s music business has left them wondering how they should distribute their studio work, an obstacle they want to overcome as soon as possible. In the meantime, The Heard will be performing regularly in their hometown with small road tours when they can. Even though their latest effort has not been released, they are looking forward to writing new material during their summer downtime. Meanwhile, Starr guarantees a repeat of the vibe created at Lundi Gras.
“The crowd can expect deep pockets with tasty horns,” said Starr. “We’re all about making each show feel like a party and celebration.”
Date: Saturday, May 2 at 7:30 p.m.
Venue: Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, 916 Charleston St., www.callaghansirishsocialclub.com
Tickets: $10 at the door