Dawsonites had a chance to “Get up with the get down and come on down” at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Gambling Hall on Feb. 23. Whitehorse band Major Funk and the Employment were in town, bringing with them not only a high-energy funk-style dance party, but an added bonus round of fun.
The band took to the stage and encouraged audience members to “come on down” in the style of the classic game show The Price is Right. Renamed The Funk is Tight, contestants played games and bid on items donated by Yukon businesses, while the band played favourite theme songs throughout the show. It all came to a head with the Showcase Showdown; contestants spun a scaled-down version of the Big Wheel for a chance to win the mystery grand prize.
While the band has a fairly large roster of musicians (“that’s where the Employment part of the band name comes in,” said founder Etienne Girard), those who played that played the show that night included Girard, Selina Heyligers-Hare (keys and vocals), Adrian Burrill (trumpet and vocals), Lee Campese (drums), Brent Gallant (guitar), Fiona Solon (vocals) and Fred Osson (saxophone and vocals).
The band has two successful live recordings (2016’s Hot Off The Floor and 2017’s Live at Jazz in the Hall) under its belt. This past summer saw Major Funk record their first studio album, Thoughts EP. They’re working on recording a couple new singles thanks to the Yukon Media Development Sound Recording Fund, and hope to work on a new album next winter.
The band has also been touring, mostly in Western Canada. It was on one of these tours that the idea for a game show theme came up.
“We love themes,” said Girard. “And we wanted to do something different and the most fun possible thing in the universe,” said Adrian Burrill.
After much brainstorming, the band settled on doing something around the classic game show The Price is Right, because, as Burrill puts it, “the theme song is so damn good, you just gravitate towards it as a musician.”
At first, the idea was to put elements of the game show into the main show, but the idea snowballed into such a big event, they decided to divide up it up into two parts; a game show for the first half, and a funk dance party for the second. Dawson local Fred Osson was chosen for the role of game show host Bob Barker (or Drew Carey, for the younger readers), while Fiona Solon and Jessica Garstin were picked as presenters.
“And I decided to be the announcer over the cheesy music we’ve learned,” said Burrill with a chuckle.
After the band settled on the name The Funk is Tight (Burrill takes credit for coming up with that one), the work began.
“It took lots of prep work to put this all together,” said Girard.
Among other things, he said, “we had to come up with a scaled-down version of the (Big Wheel.)”
“We had a line on a proper size but we would have needed a truck for that,” added Burrill.
As for the prizes, Girard said once the word got out about what they were doing, “the businesses were so on board, it was a breeze.”
The band watched a number of episodes of The Price is Right over several days to figure out the vibe. To top it all off, Burrill said, they even had boots on the ground in L.A.—someone, he said, who checked out the actual show and may or may not have brought back some surprises.
Once the game show portion of the evening was over, the band launched into a Major Funk dance party.
“I’ve played all types of music,” said Girard. “But funk is the golden ratio. It’s positive for the audience, intergenerational, super challenging as musicians. We enjoy it personally and everyone else enjoys it too.”
They did it all again at the Elk’s Lodge in Whitehorse on Saturday, March 2.