Monday 28th March 2016 – Atlantic Bar, Portrush
Easter Monday saw Funk and Soul arrive to the north coast in style as The Freedom 35’s rocked the Atlantic Bar in Portrush. Billed as the best live band in the country the Armagh four piece had a lot to live up to and funky groove after funky groove they managed to achieve this frivolous expectation. Whilst the weather and chocolate eggs may have encouraged some people to stay at home, the hardier big crowd who showed up came from all over the country to have their expectations filled; a night of great music, good craic and plenty of dancing – all for a modest £5 door charge.
The four lads from Co. Armagh have been in the game a long time with a myriad of different styles from different bands under their belts colliding in an explosion of funk and soul that speaks to fans of the genre and new comers alike. From the get-go the crowd was drawn in with little time to get acclimatised to what they were about to hear. The Freedom 35’s know what the audience wants and they deliver it straight up with no mixer: a shot of 100% proof funk that gets right behind the eyes and oozes down to the feet.
Anthony McKee sets the tone of the band with deep organ grooves preaching to a new kind of church, you could easily get hypnotised watching his hands dance in sync with feet on the dancefloor, Jimmy Hagan often steals the show with his drum breaks; the backbone of the driving rhythm the 35’s have become known for. Aidy Lee lays funky bass out on the table to be consumed by all while Gordy keeps the band going from crescendo to crescendo with catchy riffs and a deserved air of showmanship on guitar. Some of the highlights of the show were their own tunes ‘You Can Always Keep Those Blue Jeans On’, ‘Give Superman a Lift With That Train’ and of course the intense Brosnian ‘Dante’s Peak.’
Like most gigs you may feel the urge to have a few drinks and get familiar with the band on YouTube before you head out, with the 35’s I would encourage this. A great way to get in the funk zone is to check out ‘Dante’s Peak’ in which “The Freedom 35’s find themselves trapped in an active volcano and the only way to freedom is to play with the intensity of Pierce Brosnan’s acting skills!” 90’s movie references aside this says a lot about the band, they know they’re good, but they’re not cocky. They don’t take themselves too seriously and are there for the same reason the audience is; because they love it. This is obvious from the get-go and you get the impression they’d still be playing to an empty front room in some farmhouse in Keady if they didn’t have the ever growing fan base which has shot up around them since they got together in 2011.
The Freedom 35’s are old souls at heart, with a keen eye for vinyl. In fact they are only one of a handful of bands in Ireland releasing material on vinyl for record store day this year. Their 7” Date’s Peak/Black Mamba promises to be a ‘delicious cocktail of funk’ and will be available 16.04.16. Look out for the distinctive artwork and if you’re in the area you can check them out playing an in-store gig in Armagh. For a relatively small band they’re making a pretty big noise, playing gigs all over the country in venues such as The Black Box with The Strypes, regulars at The Bangor Mod Weekender and a host of summer festivals means you won’t be stuck for a chance to soak up the infectious Funk, Soul and Rhythm that is The Freedom 35’s; even if it isn’t your regular thing you’ll find it an impossible task to prevent your foot tapping and your head dipping by the time the second tune thumps out of the speakers, best not to fight it; your body knows best.