SHOW REVIEW: Kung Fu at The Stanhope House, January 31 2019

I love a good local show. Local shows are a treat for me where I live in NJ. You see, usually we have to trek into New York City for shows and that requires an astronomical toll, parking which can also be pricy, and a commute that from where we live is a good 40 minutes WITHOUT traffic. Traffic is a way of life. This is New Jersey, after all. To make matters even more complicated though, I live in rural NJ – Sussex County, to be exact. We don’t have too many venues in my corner, so when we actually get a great band to come through, it’s a must that you get your booty there for some shaking. This is especially true if that band is Kung Fu. The last time the guys blessed us with their funky presence was on their Fez tour and I had to miss it. Balls.
So there was really just no way in hell that was happening this time. I would have paid all my dollars and probably an internal organ to be there. Thankfully neither was necessary on this random winter Thursday, and we made our way to the historic old blues club, The Stanhope House. It was time for some epic booty shaking with masters of funk and all that is awesome, Kung Fu.
There were a few openers – Mythology, Funkadelic Astronaut, and local favorites Fish House Road, who brought a lot of jam energy to the venue that night and got the place good and warm by the time the guys in Kung Fu took the stage. I was excited. Side note: I had already peeped a look at the set list, thanks to expert keyboardist and A Perfect Mess taco friend Beau Sasser, and I was chomping at the bit for this set. Here’s why:
I got into Kung Fu a bit later than most with their album Joyride, and it’s a personal favorite among all albums by bands in this scene in general for me. Of all the times I have seen Kung Fu, the song I have been chasing has been Chin Music because of the fantastic way the sax and guitar blend throughout, and the wicked solos in the second half. Specifically? The bass work of Chris DeAngelis. When I first heard it, I hit up my bassist husband because I needed to know exactly what I was hearing. I said, “Dude…I was kind of unaware a bass could sound like that”. When I saw that was on there, I was stoked.
So here come the guys in Kung Fu to blow my mind in their usual way, and they did not disappoint. They kicked off the set with a couple of tracks from their 2017 Ninja Cuts series, Scorpion, one of my favorites and a bad ass song all around, and Caught Up. Now Caught Up has these GREAT vocals that they still pull off live as well as they did recorded. That’s freaking amazing. After that we got a super awesome instrumental called The Lurker which really had the room moving. There was so much going on between Tim Palmieri’s ripping guitar work, Adrian Tramontano’s just simply superhuman drumming, Rob Somerville’s mastery of the saxophone, Beau Sasser just killing it on the keys, and Chris DeAngelis playing bass in ways I didn’t really think possible. These guys are not your typical small club jam act.

I wrote in another review recently that Kung Fu is a difficult band to review because when you review a normal band, you can make special mention of things like outstanding solos. A Kung Fu show is ALL outstanding solos. This is a band of five people who play their instrument at beyond expert levels and do it with more flare and fun than almost anyone. They are an uncommon collective of extraordinary musicians. You know those conversations that pop up on social media about “Who Plays XXXX instrument With The Most Flare and Skill” and blah blah blah? Yeah, my answer is usually someone in this band. They are, at times, mesmerizing to watch. 

The next song we were treated to was Joyride track The Get Down, and good golly, get down we did. They played it significantly faster than the album version which was in itself fun to watch because they still pulled it off perfectly. That song is another favorite of mine and they take it to new levels when they play it live. The majority of the song is instrumental but the last part has a great singalong and dance thing that goes on. Every time I have seen them do this song live, the audience just loses it. It’s a lot of fun. Next they did a super trippy song called Dirty Power that was a lot of fun, and that brought us into another Joyride song, Daddy D. This was just an epic set that just didn’t quit!
Then I got Chin Music, complete with some intense solo efforts from DeAngelis. Good god, dude. No one plays like that. For the record, no one plays like anyone in Kung Fu. You see, Kung Fu is a band that has five guys who are all, simultaneously, the best player in the band and all pulling an insane solo at the same time. You don’t know where to look when watching them play live because every one of them is doing something fucking amazing. So you just dance! You dance while saying “holy shit” to yourself over and over again because are these guys even human? Not while they are playing, they aren’t. It’s not all seriousness though. It’s a stage full of people who genuinely enjoy making music together, and it shows. Seriously, if you haven’t seen a Kung Fushow, you are missing out on something special. Get your ass out there, man.
The show was getting towards the end, and then the band just kicked all our asses. They pulled out a song from funk-soul bass virtuoso Thundercat called Oh Sheit, It’s X. They went just nuts on this song and blew our collective minds while making us dance so feverishly that I think I might have broken something. I’m just not young anymore. (or in shape) I love getting into a groove at a great show and looking next to you on both sides and seeing that everyone else is too. That’s the magic, right there. That’s what it’s all about. Just when we didn’t think the energy in the room could get any higher though, the band closed out the night with their amazingly groove heavy song Samurai and we all went crazy to the spacey jams. I don’t think I have danced that hard in a long damn time. I have seen Kung Fuclose with this song before, but this was probably the most intense I have seen it done so far and it was so much damn fun. Not surprisingly, the crowd was not ready to say goodbye and there were a few shouts asking for one more. That was it though. It was back to the cold winter night for us. I am sure I am not alone when I say I can’t wait for them to make a return trip to NJ.

The guys in Kung Fu have a bunch of dates coming up, which you can check out HERE. Get your booty out there for a good Kung Fu shaking ASAP. I’m not being dramatic here, but it might just change your life.

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