Grand Funk ‘comin’ to your town’ for Snowmass concert
If You Go…
Grand Funk Railroad
Snowmass Thursday Night Concert Series
Fanny Hill, Snowmass Village
Forty-five years after its formation in Michigan, Grand Funk Railroad comes to Snowmass Village to “help you party it down” on the mountainside. When the iconic 1970s hit machine of a band came into being, drummer Don Brewer said he never imagined it would still be at it in 2014.
“Back then I thought I was going to be dead by now,” he said.
But Grand Funk these days is doing much of what it was doing in 1969 and in its early ’70s heyday, playing crowd-pleasing shows that don’t let you take rock music too seriously and insist you have a good time.
“We do a high-energy Grand Funk Railroad rock ’n’ roll show with all the hits,” Brewer said before listing the band’s sizable list of hits from its 10 platinum albums in rapid-fire Micro Machines pitchman style: “We’re An American Band,” “I’m Your Captain/Closer to Home,” “Some Kind of Wonderful,” “The Loco-Motion,” “Shinin’ On,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Inside Looking Out,” “Footstompin’ Music,” Rock ’n’ Roll Soul.”
The band’s signature sound, Brewer said, came from watching the way Jimi Hendrix and Cream took American blues and turned it into “cranked-up blues.” Brewer and the founding members of the band aimed to do the same with the R&B sounds of Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding.
“The idea of Grand Funk Railroad was doing cranked-up R&B,” he said. “We took our R&B stuff and put it on steroids. So it’s this unique combination of R&B and rock, and I think it’s really uplifting music, and people relate to it that way.”
Through its early years, when Grand Funk helped define the era’s popular rock sound, it played nightly and crisscrossed the country twice annually — a 1971 show at Shea Stadium famously broke The Beatles’ record sell-out time. It also released two hit albums a year between 1969 and 1976 before burning out and breaking up.
“When we first disbanded in 1976, we thought, ‘Well, that’s that,” Brewer said.
The band reunited for two years in the early ’80s before calling it quits again until 1996. Brewer was as surprised as anyone when classic-rock radio and reissues of their albums brought them back into fashion in the ’90s.
In the early ’70s, Grand Funk would play 40 shows in 40 days on tour — these days it plays about 40 per year. It’s also left the tour bus behind, limiting engagements to weekend shows and flying to its gigs.
Grand Funk is a family-friendly show in 2014, an aspect Brewer said is what keeps it fun after 45 years.
“I love that we can see three generations of people out there that know the words to the songs,” he said. “People bring their grandkids, and they’re singing ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ together, and that’s really cool.”
That’s quite a difference from the Grand Funk crowd that rock critic Lester Bangs described in Creem magazine in 1970 as “including vast hordes of ecstatically wasted freaks to charge the stage waving those thousands of hands in the air in a display of marginally political unity,” but Brewer is pleased to have that era in the past and to play for families on Fanny Hill tonight at the free Snowmass Thursday-night concert.
The current Grand Funk lineup has been together since 2000, featuring Brewer and original Grand Funk bassist Mel Schacher joined by keyboardist Tim Cashion and guitarists Max Carl and Bruce Kulick.
They’ve written a handful of new songs together, two of which Brewer said they plan to showcase at tonight’s show between the hits.
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