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Culture: Let's get funky, man!

Uncle Funk & The Boogie Wonderband
Uncle Funk & The Boogie Wonderband

Expect flamboyance, slick dance moves and much more when the irrepressible Uncle Funk & the Boogie Wonderband return to Haverhill Arts Centre. Peter Mann finds out why they blame it on the boogie

The middle of February will see Haverhill Arts Centre turned well and truly into funk-boogie central as Uncle Funk & the Boogie Wonderband perform once again.

It’ll be the third successive year the band have performed in the West Suffolk town, debuting there in 2015 in the Market Square in front of an impressive 3,000 strong crowd, a town which the band have already built up something of a history, a loving one at that.

Originally known as just ‘Uncle Funk’, the group gained a considerable following around Bishop’s Stortford and Harlow by performing testosterone-fuelled shows featuring original funk-rock compositions with titles such as Top Shelf Paranoia and Poo Kiss Banana.

The band’s army of loyal fans were convinced the band were stars in the making, and so it’s proving.

This, however, was not an opinion shared by a guest music critic for The Harlow Star newspaper, who, to the band’s delight, memorably dismissed one of their 1992 gigs at the town’s now-closed music venue The Square as “sexist, degrading and crap”!

Critical acclaim aside, though, instead of conquering the world Uncle Funk split-up – only to reform at the end of the ‘90s, reinventing themselves as one of UK’s first, bona-fide, disco tribute acts.

Uncle Funk said: “We were asked to reform for a friend’s party, so we decided to learn a few disco hits. We had a lot of fun doing it, so we did it again.

“The band has since steadily evolved over the years into what it is today.”

Honing their skills at hundreds of gigs across the UK, Uncle Funk eventually became Uncle Funk & The Boogie Wonderband in 2013, boasting a cast of stellar musicians who between them have recording, performance and touring credits with stars such as Amy Winehouse, Eric Clapton, Soul II Soul, Dame Shirley Bassey, Dionne Warwick, Michael Ball, Andrea Bocelli and Pet Shop Boys and many more.

Since then, their flamboyant live shows, impeccable musicianship, slick dance moves and retina-burning light shows have seen the band’s public profile begin to rise.

In addition to performing more headline shows across the country than ever before, Uncle Funk & the Boogie Wonderband are regularly invited to perform their larger-than-life disco revue at festivals such as Glastonbury, Shambala and Standon Calling, among others.

Vocalist Susan Pinkie adding: “We only play the biggest hits and best loved tunes; all killer, no filler.

“And it’s on a Saturday night – what better excuse do you need to dress-up to get down? We’ll see you all on the dancefloor!”

In bringing their larger-than-life disco revue to the Haverhill Arts Centre, this year’s show is expected to be a sell-out. Those wishing to attend are being advised to buy the few remaining tickets now to avoid disappointment.

Their now annual date at the Arts Centre always taking place in the middle of February, have now taken on a tongue-in-cheek ‘Valentines Love-In’ theme.

The band’s bassist and celebrated doctor of cool ‘DC1’, added: “Our gigs around Valentine’s Day are always very steamy affairs with a lot of love in the air.

“This often leads to significant post-gig baby booms, newsworthy sales of Alka-Seltzer and pictures of Uncle Funk’s spandex-clad derriere trending on social media.

“As a band though, we blame it on the boogie.”

Explaining their fantastic, winning formula, Flash Jackson, who strums a stunning tune on the guitar, added: “I think it’s a combination of performing some of the greatest music ever made for the dance floor with a genuine passion and energy.

“For a few hours, it’s all about people coming together to sing and dance like it’s the last night on earth.

“It’s a shared experience, and you can’t beat that.”

Following a run of club dates in the spring, The Boogie Wonderband will embark on a summer of festival appearances across the UK and have, in recent times, counted support from celebrity fans such as Harry Potter star Rupert Grinch (Ron Weasley in the hit franchise), Kool & The Gang’s Robert ‘Kool’ Bell and 10cc’s Graham Gouldman.

Rock legend Graham Gouldman said: “If you wanna get down with the hippest, funkiest band in the land then go and see Uncle Funk and The Boogie Wonderband.” While Robert ‘Kool’ Bell added: “I LOVE Uncle Funk & The Boogie Wonderband! Keep on funking!”

In attending one of the band’s gigs you can certainly expect to hear the greatest hits

by legendary artists such as Earth, Wind & Fire, Chic, the Bee Gees, Sister Sledge, Diana Ross, Chaka Khan, Gloria Gaynor, The Jacksons and many more, all performed 100 per cent live by this nationally acclaimed eight-piece band.

Uncle Funk & The Boogie Wonderband, February 17, Haverhill Arts Centre. Call 01440 714140 or visit haverhillartscentre.co.uk

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