We're Developing a Fever in the Funkhouse

Reunited: Fever in the Funkhouse
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Club Dada’s

Amanda Newman just gave me the official word for her club's New Year’s Eve plans. In fact, she was so excited about it that I’ll let her tell it herself:

"So...after lots of back and forth and phone calls...New Year's Eve at Dada will feature a two-hour set from Fever in the Funkhouse. The lineup will include original members Nick Brisco, Chris Clairidy and Bryan Wakeland (Polyphonic Spree). A yet to be named local bass player will be filling the shoes of original bassist Jim Holbrook."

It's appropriate for Dada to celebrate with a band that was alongside the New Bohemians and Ten Hands in the late '80s and early '90s music renaissance emerging from Deep Ellum. Newman adds, “I wanted to do something special this New Year's to pay homage to Dada's history, a blending of the old guard and the new guard, if you will.”

Although familiar with Funkhouse's music, I was a little shaky on its history. So Brisco took some time out with me this morning to give me the lowdown via phone from Chicago.

As Brisco was getting his day started, he remarked how the miracle of MySpace has landed his latest band, Café Antarsia Ensemble, a deal with Innova Records. With his future set with his new band, Brisco graciously revisited his past as frontman for Funkhouse.

“We came into Deep Ellum at a good time back in 1989. It was a real nurturing scene. Good place for local bands to create something new,” he starts. Four young guys from the suburbs who saw Dallas as “a reality of a music scene…something we could get into.”

Internet research tells me that Club Clearview was the site of the band's debut, but he feels the big break was at the 500 Café (in the space that is now the Monkey Bar). They were the house band every Wednesday and to get people into the café, they gave away free beer for two hours. “That was a Wednesday night in old Deep Ellum,” he says. “We’d play for 300 people. This is what Dallas used to be about.”

Only to add, “I hope that Dallas can recover.”

Something Funkhouse didn’t do as 1991 rolled around. The story of Funkhouse is legend among these parts. He says it himself, “Everyone knows the story.” For those out of the loop, here's a quick history lesson.

The band members had some rough dealings with their manager during their developmental deal with Polygram Records. Simultaneously, they were amid a bidding war between two other labels. Not an enviable position for the young band. But then the cloud got blacker with some band dysfunction and naiveté in dealing with their manager, the prospects of big deal labels and producers. To make matters worse, Funkhouse's A&R representative at Polygram was fired leaving Funkhouse pretty much funked.

Time has given Brisco a matured perspective. “Looking back, I accept it as it is. It’s the only way to come to it clean," he says. He only wishes he wouldn't have been so scared of the whole process.

And as he and the band makes its way back to Dallas, Brisco says he hopes that “Fever steps beyond why the band broke up. We are getting together with positive energy and would rather be judged by the performance that night.”

He does admit to some nerves about the show, “We are trying to recruit someone locally (to play bass) to make this gig happen. I’m a little nervous about it. This is the first time in 10 years I’ll have an electric band behind me,” referencing his latest foray into gypsy music laced with an Americana feel.

But he’s also optimistic thanks to a slew of e-mails from fans already planning their New Year’s Eve at Dada. “We made a promise that we would (perform in Dallas again). New Year’s seemed like a good time to do it,” he says. “The band exists in memory. But Fever’s a Dallas thing. The band belongs to Dallas.” -- Rich Lopez

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