Review – Chromeo Made Funk on the Rocks Funky Again

Funk on the Rocks returned for its sixth installment last night — and with it, myself for the fifth consecutive year. The annual tradition, hosted by electro-funk duo Chromeo, has been something that fans look forward to with every coming Red Rocks season. This year was different, however, with last night’s lineup contrasting significantly with previous years.

Now, we can’t take all of the credit for the change, but last year, we challenged the funk lords themselves to a funkier Red Rocks lineup (get caught up here). The Montreal duo responded, accepting the challenge. In what felt like an almost tongue-in-cheek response to 303 Magazine’s challenge, Chromeo announced co-headliner Thievery Corporation — a genre-blending group that isn’t exactly funk but are undeniably funky. What can we say but “touché?” In addition to Thievery Corporation, last night we were treated to Chromeo with a live band, a vinyl-tinged DJ set by Peanut Butter Wolf, the soul-funk sounds of Adeline (previously of Escort) and bounce legend Big Freedia.

Adeline stole the crown as funkiest of the night (sorry, Chromeo) while Big Freedia — the outlier — proved her royalty as the Queen of Bounce. Thievery Corporation played a simple set that was impossible to stand still to by combining their usual elements of reggae, soul, hip-hop and — dare I say it again — funk. Thievery was the perfect co-headliner to balance out Chromeo’s electro sounds. Combined, it provided an entirely different feel from the previous four years I’ve attended Funk on the Rocks. Even in comparison to last year’s lineup (Glitch Mob, Elohim and Kittens) this edition featured a much more diverse roster of acts marking the beginning of a new chapter for the annual event.

Not only was the lineup curation different from previous Funk on the Rocks, so was Chromeo’s set. Their iconic high-heeled light-up legs were nowhere to be found. That’s not all, though — their mirrors were also missing, with the band leaving their usual reflective, chrome stage set-up behind. Without the mirrors, Chromeo ventured away from their nearly strictly-white lighting and instead, made use of a more colorful light show.

Chromeo at Funk on the Rocks in 2015. Photo by Ryan Good

As a Chromeo fan, this show felt more celebratory than any other Funk on the Rocks in the past. At no point did I overhear “who’s Chromeo?” gasped by an attendee and this was the first year we didn’t see a mass exodus after the first headliner’s set. Last night, after Thievery Corporation, most of the crowd stayed and danced the rest of the night away with Chromeo. Whether they were fans of the band or not, Red Rocks stuck it out and had a good time with the staples of the annual showcase.

Though this isn’t the funkiest that Funk on Rocks can truly be, it was one of the best yet. Seeing the changes made in 2019’s lineup, we’re excited to see how Funk on the Rocks continues to evolve. Chromeo’s ability to receive criticisms and proactively take steps to address them proves that the duo is genuine and deserving of their night at the historic venue year in and year out — and we continue to look forward to it.

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