Get up and groove in Avon
AVON, Colorado – Like some funky soul group that somehow got overlooked 35 years ago, California-based Orgone is straight out of the ’70s, replete with a fiesty, soulful lead singer. Fanny Franklin’s voice is Aretha-Franklin-big-meets-Macy-Gray-smoky. Draw your own comparisons tonight when the band takes the stage at Agave in Avon. And speaking of getting on stage, that in itself is no small feat. There’s nine members in this band. Yes, nine, and there’s another six people listed as “extended family” on the band’s bio. If you know Agave’s stage, it fits a five-piece band nicely. But that didn’t keep the band from bringing the funk to the Avon bar this past winter when they opened for Ozomatli. “It was kind of daunting at first,” said the band’s keyboardist and founding member Dan Hastie. “We literally set up in front of them. We’ve never been so mashed up, but we didn’t mind it so much. We just like playing. That show was great and really that whole tour was good for us.”The band made an impression on Agave owner Richard Wheelock, which is why they’re back as headliners at the bar tonight.”The funny thing was that many people even prefered (Orgone) over Ozomatli,” Wheelock said. “Orgone had a groovy, upbeat sort of sound. They really seemed to be a band going somewhere.”
Since that show, the band’s played the New Orleans Jazz Fest and most recently, Bonnaroo. They’ve opened for the likes of Al Green, Gil Scott-Heron, and Sharon Jones, and toured with the Roots, Greyboy Allstars and Groundation.And because the band is so large, with a handful of horns including a trombone, trumpet and sax, its a guarantee that they’re not simply rehashing a beloved but long-gone musical era. Depending on the song, there’s funk, R&B, jazz, rock and even hip-hop elements that come streaming through. The music is complex, but still manages to feel uncluttered and more than a little reminiscent of Sly & the Family Stone or Al Green. All in all, it’s impossible to not at least bob your head to the music. Even at 8 a.m., its infectious rhythms, a la Muscle Shoals, make you want to get up out of your office chair and groove. “It’s basically a mix of all the stuff we’ve grown up loving and listening to,” Hastie said. “There’s definitely Nigerian, Afro beats… I’m a DJ and a vinyl collector and I do a lot of the disco stuff, late ’70s, early ’80s. All that gets thrown into this thing and that’s what you get – you get Orgone out of it.”
The band itself has been around for a decade, first as an instrumental outfit. Some of the members have been playing together for nearly two decades, since high school, Hastie said, which accounts for the way the band functions seamlessly as one unit, rather than nine separate musicians. The band has been a nine-piece since 2004 and Franklin added her lush voice to the mix in 2003. The band first saw her when she was performing with a 30-piece hip hop orchestra, Dakah, in Los Angeles, Hastie said. “Fanny is another Santa Monica/L.A. native, we’d been seeing her around the scene for a while in this hip hop orchestra. I had a friend who wanted to do a single, to be released in Japan – a cover version of ‘Funky Nassau.’ We approached her to do the single. The song put us on the map; it made a lot of noise all over Europe, Japan, and eventually in the states.”Franklin’s been a part of the band ever since and as such, her voice is all over “Cali Fever,” the band’s newest album, and second record on Ubiquity Records, which drops this week. “There’s a lot more original vocals,” Hastie said. “On the first record with Ubiquity (‘The Killion Floor’) that was still just coming together. “For this one, we’d all write the lyrics and stuff together. It was very much creatively done together and it’s definitely a realization of what the band should sound like.”High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.