Riding a wave of funky, soulful and hip-hop vibes, Phony Ppl brought a very real and tantalising groove to a hungry Auckland crowd on Friday night. Playing with the likes of Erykah Badu and the Roots, the Brooklyn based 5-piece has surged into the spotlight upon their latest release mō’zā-ik. Their sound transplanted the hustle and bustle of New York to the floor of Auckland’s Tuning Fork.
Starting off the night at 8.30, Christoph El' Truento eased the crowd in with a fuzzy mix of hip-hop, disco, and funk that included the likes of Curls by Madvillain, Soon Never Comes by Stimulator Jones and Evil Ways by Willie Bobo – go check out his new album Foraging. Finishing up around 9.30 the venue was now full to the brim, with colours, ages and creeds of all kinds who oozed with a positive energy that eagerly awaited the arrival of the main act.
After drummer Matt "Maffyuu" Byas mucked around on the kit to his own selection of tunes, Phony Ppl came bounding on to the stage with glistening smiles and an attire straight off the streets of Brooklyn.
Groovy is the word - these cats intoxicated the venue instantly, with frontman Elbee Thrie calling for “groovin, movin, and dancing’” right off the bat with the first track of the evening end of the night.
The energy of the crowd must be noted. A frenzied mess of bodies bobbed to the deep grooves of the rhythm section, the hasty whack of guitar strumming and milky smooth vocal lines. Screaming with outbursts of joy, they really did come out to “have a damn good time.” It was a pleasure to see such a dance-ready venue keen to boogie.
Stood centre left of the stage my ears did struggle to hear the vocals at times and the keys did feel as if they got lost in the mix somewhat. Bari Bass’ bass (I know) did not struggle to be heard – after being introduced the chanting crowd cried out for the cat’s appraisal and were blessed with some intense slapping and a walk that matched to boot.
About halfway through the set the group played the opener of their latest album mō’zā-ik. Brought in with sparkling keys of Aja Grant, Way Too Far took a step back from the more energetic set thus far and roughed out the edges of an otherwise frantic and funky whirlwind of hip-hop and R&B that enveloped the night.
Bumping straight back into it, Possessed saw their roots in hip-hop really come forth with Elbee spinning raps around a rock-solid beat that saw the crowd respond maniacally to shouts from guitarist Elijah Rawk – whose tones and skill left the guitarist in me flabbergasted.
Continuing to play mostly that album, Phony Ppl brought in the crowd-pleaser One Man Band which features on a tasty performance thanks to Tiny Desk Concert. This happy little number hips and hops along to off-beat rhythms that got bodies wobbling, arms raised and smiling faces singing along – not to mention delightful solos from the keys and guitar that broke through a balanced mix.
Finishing up the night with Before you get a Boyfriend, you can really hear a range of influences from Mandrill, Ohio Players to Flying Lotus and J Dilla that is the genuine palette of flavours from Phony Ppl.
Leaving the audience wanting more I am sure that others, like me, look forward to their groovy return to our shores in the coming years to have another damn good time.
Phony Ppl's Setlist
- Intro/end of the night
- Take a chance
- Either way
- Went Too Far
- Something about your love
- Move her mind
- Baby meet my lover
- One Man Band
- Messing Around
- Cookie Crumble
- Before you get a Boyfriend