A band that’s “bored easily” is the best kind. Most audiences are just as easily bored, after all. Versatility in sound and style exemplifies musicianship and keeps the crowd on their toes. For The Ragabonds and Funk Trek, two groups from the Omaha, Neb., music scene playing The Scarlet stage in Leadville on Saturday, April 29, evolution is part of the process.
Five years ago, The Ragabonds began by playing what they dubbed “folk n’ roll” — complete with a viola — but now describe themselves as living in a constant state of creation, exploring electronic and R&B infusion into their sound.
Funk Trek, in funk dynasty tradition, has expanded and contracted from three to 10 members, employing poets, rappers and a handful of different horns along the way. No musician’s job is ever finished, and these two young bands are still in the spring of their journey together. The eclectic music combined with Leadville’s love to dance, means that The Scarlet’s windows will be fogging up on Saturday night.
Omaha is home to a budding music scene and both bands will tell you that unlike the hot spots of Nashville, Chicago and even Denver, the climate in Omaha is supportive rather than competitive.
“Any genre of music, you can find someone doing it in Omaha,” says Ragabonds’ front woman Amy Schweid. “It’s got a really great scene and artists there just want help each other out.”
In fact, one of The Ragabonds’ newest members, Daniel Pflug, is co-headliner of Funk Trek. And thanks to their mutual friend and Scarlet bartender Stephanie Brandt, this isn’t the first time Leadville will get a taste of Omaha. Last month The Scarlet hosted The Kris Lager Band during the band’s album release tour.
Along with Schweid and Pflug, The Ragabonds include Jamison Figueroa, Patrick David O’Neil and Derek Bird. But with a “constant state of creation” in mind, no member is attached to a single instrument, and the musicians are swapping seats throughout the entire set. Schweid, most often singing and playing piano, even dons a pair of tap shoes on occasion.
The Ragabonds got their start in 2012 as a three-piece group and after going through bassists and guitarists like Kleenex, finally found fixtures Figueroa and O’Neil.
“Jamison and Pat both played single shows with us, and we expected that to be it, but I feel like we all sparked something — we all challenged each other and threw each other out of our preconceived notions and musical boxes we were stuck in.”
They’ve since ditched the viola, and two years ago started “hitting it hard,” playing Midwest festivals such as Lovefest, Milkfest and Riverjam. One thing is for sure, The Ragabonds are full of energy and demand the best of themselves and their audiences. The best shows Schweid remembers aren’t always the smoothest or easiest. In fact she recalls a slew of technical issues while trying to start a particular show back home in Omaha.
“Everything was just going wrong. But the moment we stepped on that stage, we zoned in on each other — and the music, the crowd and everything just clicked. Those are the shows I remember. Not the ones where you hit every note perfectly, but the ones where you are perfectly connected with your band, with the audience. You can feel that energy.”
Get a feel for The Ragabonds sound on Facebook, Instagram or by visiting their website theragabondsband.com.
Funk Trek began their voyage in 2008 with cousins/best friends Daniel Pflug and Tom Murnan. Now, they comprise a six-piece “backbone of sound” while welcoming guest artists here and there to supplement their music. They are Murnan on bass, Pflug and Jared Dietz on guitar, Jake Reisdorff on the keyboard and both Blake DeForest and Don Halverson on horns. Funk Trek plays primarily instrumental music composed by the bassist, Murnan, but each member adds his or her own touch during the writing process. James Brown, Steely Dan, Soulive and Erykah Badu are just some of the acts that influence the collective Funk Trek sound.
As they have grown and played alongside acts such as O.A.R., Naughty Professor and Dumpstaphunk while touring in California, Chicago and Wisconsin, Funk Trek hold themselves to an increasing standard.
“The bar just keeps getting higher the more you do,” says Pflug. “You want to be greater than you are.”
After Leadville, it’s back home and to the drawing board for the band, which plans to work on structural improvements and a new album.
“Tom, our bassist, has got a ton of material he wants to release, so we’re focused on getting all that under our wings.”
Funk Trek’s last two albums, Quencher and Purify are available now on iTunes, and their Wikipedia page provides a detailed history of the band. Check them out on Facebook, Bandcamp and alongside The Ragabonds this Saturday night at The Scarlet.
The Scarlet is Leadville’s primary live music venue, with plenty of leg room for dancing. Located at 326 Harrison Ave. in Leadville, look for the “LIVE MUSIC TONIGHT” banner in the front window. There’s no cover charge, but of course bring a valid ID, boogie shoes and a few bucks to tip the bands and bartender.