Following Black Friday is Small Business Saturday, a day to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for their communities. In the beachfront city of Asbury Park, NJ where music is the local currency, there is no better way to shop small than to support area musicians. Pounding the local pavement is how it starts, and famed local venues like The Wonder Bar are where it starts. To be perfectly clear, a headlining gig on a Saturday night over a holiday weekend is a big deal. After having opened on this same stage for the high-flying jam band Eggy last summer, local upstart Fungkshui (pronounced funk shway) would make the most of its first headlining opportunity.
Names matter … a lot. Just like people judge a book by its cover, they judge an idea, company, or whatever by its name and the same principle holds true when it comes to music. The name is the first thing you see and if it doesn’t have a certain pull, then most people are unlikely to ever hear a note. On the other hand, choosing an exotic name that evokes strong positive associations about the product it contains can open doors and minds alike. Fungkshui’s founding member Jack Reed seems to understand that formula perfectly.
Funk: music that combines elements of rhythm and blues and soul music and that is characterized by a percussive vocal style, static harmonies, and a strong bass line with heavy downbeats. Feng shui: an ancient Chinese traditional practice that claims to use energy forces to harmonize individuals with their surrounding environment. Not only is Fungkshui a perfect combination thereof but feng shui’s literal meaning of “wind-water” couldn’t be more appropriate for a band based out of Asbury Park, the Jersey Shore’s definitive paradise for music lovers.
Fungkshui–Jack Reed (guitar), Max Vitale (guitar), Jon Scheps (bass), and Kyle Donovan (drums)–is young yet its music is sophisticated. The musicians are polished yet the style of their play remains loose and free. All four members of the psychedelic funk quartet contribute vocally and their mostly original setlist is characterized by hip-shaking grooves and irresistible hooks among patient exploration and soaring peaks. The band’s cover game, also worthy of note, included Collective Soul’s “Shine” in addition to a set-opening tease of Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” and a show-closing nod to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”.
To attend its live show is to give in to the spirit of feng shui and harmonize with your environment and surely there is no better way to do that than with dance and smiles. The eager Saturday night crowd complied with reckless abandon while Fungkshui kept them in constant motion with irresistible hooks and toe-tapping rhythm.
It feels good to “shop small” and support your own with respect to music and your local scene, and to that end there’s nothing quite like discovering a new band in your own backyard. Still, I remained curious as to how other people in the crowded room came to be there before a conversation with another fan during intermission revealed one of the most organic 2022 boy-meets-band stories I’ve ever heard. Curious as to how this young man came to know of Fungkshui, he revealed that he found them on Instagram because “this girl that I follow because she’s cute and posts about the Grateful Dead and Phish and stuff promoted them on her feed.” Having paid enough attention to like what he heard, he then drove 30 minutes to see them in Pottstown, PA last June before following that up with a 90-minute effort to see them at the Jersey Shore on Saturday night nearly six months later. Fungkshui, for its part, rewarded his effort.
That story is at least as revealing about Fungkshui–and the power of social media–as any description of the band’s music might be. For fans of fun, funk, feng, and shui, put the Asbury Park fusion quartet on your radar and be on the lookout for pro-shot video of this most recent show as well as full show audio on Spotify. In 2023, the band’s plans include a full East Coast tour in support of the upcoming release of its first full-length album.