The Boom Boom Room is thick with sweat and liquor, the temperature rising steadily as seven musicians work the dancefloor into a thick stew. The horn section punches in and percussion and keys begin tapping out a heavy late-’70s style groove, made smooth with Stevie Wonder-esque vocals on a hero’s journey song called “Afterglow.”
“Afterglow” is the first track off Movin’ The Needle, a new, 11-track album from The Humidors — a funk band whose serious, polyrhythmic Boom Boom Room is home base. They’re bringing their love for straightforward funk, boogie, and soul to that Fillmore stage this Saturday, Feb. 10,
“We are very much into the vintage ’70s funk, but we also put a little contemporary spin on it and come up with interesting arrangements, in the vein of West Coast funk like Tower of Power and Sly and The Family Stone,” says percussionist and founding member Justin Abee.
Formed in 2014 from the vestiges of funk and neo-soul band King Pablo, The Humidors are a standout among the groups that putting the Bay’s funk and soul scene on the map. While The Humidors’ funk might lean toward the more traditional end of the musical spectrum, the band’s thoughtful arrangements and tight execution, polished by the soulful vocal stylings of Andre Cruz, make the group approachable and inspiring.
“We have a lot of really talented players, but it’s a very collective drive to the music. I think the arrangement of songs are a point of difference from other West Coast acts,” Abee says. “You have your P-Funk kind of style where it’s very linear, not a lot of changes to the songs. We try to throw in transitions from a verse to a chorus; we’ll try to throw in some syncopated rhythms or some unison work that leads us to the next part, but we do that in a way that’s not very fussy.”
Although they may look unassuming, the The Humidors bring a complexity to their funk. “Desensitized,” an uptempo boogie, starts out with the horn and heavy bass line you’d expect from a funk band before leaning into a Led Zeppelin-influenced guitar jam. The band’s history as a mostly instrumental group also shows through with organ-forward tunes such as “The Great Highway.”
The Humidors’ musical progression and attention to detail is one result of lineup changes – while rotating members might make another band sound inconsistent, the addition of new players has brought strength and diversity. “Mayaluc,” a moody instrumental reminiscent of early Budos Band tunes, came from drummer Adam Willis, who joined the band about two and a half years ago. Cruz, who replaced original singer in 2016, has a understated but heartfelt stage presence that perfectly lends itself to The Humidors’ brand of ensemble funk.
“In a funk band you have the luxury of time so you can explore things, or mix something in on stage. Sometimes Andre will throw in something we didn’t expect, or I’ll start a solo just because it feels appropriate,” says keyboardist and founding Humidorian Ben Corrie. “For a band to function effectively in an environment like that, the communication and trust among the members of the band has to be strong.”
The band takes a highly collaborative approach on stage and in studio, working with funk scene friends to make Movin’ The Needle a tight representation of their energetic live show. The album was recorded at the North Bay studio of Monophonics singer/keyboardist Kelly Finnigan, mixed in Los Angeles by Orgone guitarist Sergio Rios (who plays on “Afterglow”), and features the powerhouse vocals of Orgone’s Adryon DeLeon on two tracks. In January, The Humidors opened for Orgone on a multi-city tour.
With an arsenal of solid dance tracks, killer live show, and a vinyl release of Movin’ The Needle in April, The Humidors are poised to funk up the Bay and beyond.
The Humidors, Saturday, Feb. 10, 9:30 p.m., at the Boom Boom Room, 1601 Fillmore St. $15; boomboomtickets.com