Let me go ahead and set the record straight before we dive in. Of the five Funk on the Rocks, I’ve been to four. I love Chromeo, and I love Funk on the Rocks. But is Funk on the Rocks actually, well, about funk?
Chromeo — the legendary electro-funk masters from Montreal — are inarguably fueled by their genre. They’re equally as influenced by some of their most notable funk predecessors as they are influential to modern and up-and-coming funk musicians. So why — in five years of Funk on the Rocks — is Chromeo one of the very few funk artists to occupy the bill?
The closest Chromeo has come to having a funk artist join them as a co-headliner for the annual event thus far are the indie-electro-disco Australian group Cut Copy for the first year of Funk on the Rocks, and Jamie xx’s throwback disco DJ set in 2015 — both funk influenced, but still not exactly a full representation of funk. However, other past co-headliners include ODESZA and RÜFÜS du SOL — two electronic artists. Sure, maybe there’s some funk influence in their styles of music — as argued by one of our own writers — but are they funky enough to play a festival with the genre name in the title? No. Some openers in the past like Claptone and Classixx have provided funky tunes in line with the event’s title — but this year’s lineup of KITTENS, Elohim and The Glitch Mob proved that Chromeo was the only true funk-masters to perform. If anything, Funk on the Rocks, excluding Chromeo, is dominated by different variations of electronic music — all of the musician’s bio’s are monopolized by genres like “pop,” “electronic” and “dance,” but very few even mention funk at all. In an interview with the Colorado Springs Independent in 2016, Chromeo themselves stated when describing that particular year’s lineup,
“And then Four Tet, he’s kind of like an electronic music legend. He’s been doing it longer than us, I think. And What So Not is like really, really fresh Australian beats-driven electronic music that’s current and super-relevant. So it’s an eclectic bill, but it’s all dance music, and it’s all fun, and it’s all beats-oriented.”
There’s no arguing that Colorado has a love for electronic music — maybe electronic acts are booked as Chromeo co-headliners to sell more tickets. But maybe not. Chromeo themselves have explained their concept for Funk on the Rocks. In that same interview with the Colorado Springs Independent, the duo was asked why they were on the same bill with such “different” musicians as Jamie xx and Four Tet. Their response was, “Yeah, but Funk on the Rocks is kind of like a one-day, Chromeo-curated festival, where we pick three or four of our favorite artists of the moment and try to bring them together.”
If Funk on the Rocks is actually a Chromeo-curated festival, we think that’s great — but the title of the event is “Funk on the Rocks” which is ballsy if you aren’t going to actually showcase the best of funk at Red Rocks. This is especially problematic because Chromeo isn’t creating their own space for the event — instead the duo is occupying a night at one of the most prestigious and sought-after venues in the world. This essentially makes it more difficult for other funk acts to hold a similar festival. Just the confusion alone for true funk fans is probably disheartening — especially since every year you see a mass exodus of electronic fans leave even before Chromeo hits the stage.
Alright, alright — let’s take a break to talk about the show which was — in fact — exceptional, despite its misleading moniker. KITTENS came first, bringing West Hollywood to Red Rocks with a mix of bumping nu-disco and trap. Her tasteful mix of remixes by pop-R&B favorites like Destinys Child made the unbearably hot day just a little bit cooler. Elohim (one of the original words for “God”) came next and proved herself to be a one-woman force to be reckoned with. She verified her musical skills within the first few songs — playing synths and keys simultaneously, on top of her soft, ambient vocals. The musician also dazzled the audience with impressive piano breakaways. This was all before she said “fuck it,” threw on the backtrack and broke away to show off her dance moves. It was fantastically entertaining.
The Glitch Mob took the stage during sunset, clearly excited to embrace their Red Rocks performance. The trio brought the bass and break-beats in an impressive, partially theatrical electronic set. Each of the band members took solos and Elohim even came out for a feature. They showed off their diversity and capability in the realm of electronic music, exploring other genres simultaneously and even throwing in a White Stripes cover at one point.
Shortly after 10 p.m., it was finally time for Chromeo. Having been to Funk on the Rocks the past four years, this Chromeo set, in particular, was refreshing. The duo brought an upgraded stage setup and had fresh material to perform — though we can’t say we’re thrilled with the new material. The duo dived in with classic hits like “Come Alive” and “Bonafied Lovin” before mixing in a couple tracks from their new album like “Juice.” But considering they’re touring on a new album released just this month, it’s surprising we didn’t see more tracks from it performed last night at Red Rocks. We’re not complaining.
Though Funk on the Rocks brought a stellar lineup this year and continues to do so every year, we feel that funk is being slighted at Red Rocks. So this is our challenge to Chromeo — we dare you to come back in 2019 with a 100 percent funky-fresh lineup. This year could have easily sold tickets while remaining true to the event’s title with the addition of musicians/groups like Jungle, Jamiroquai or even George Clinton and the Parliment Funkadelic. We love you, Chromeo — and we’re returning to Funk on the Rocks next year regardless of whoever is co-headlining and opening the show with you. But next year, please give Red Rocks the night of pure, unadulterated funk music it deserves.