By McKenzie Fetters
From symphonic band to viking chorale to symphony orchestra, a Lawrentian might think that they know or have heard about all of the diverse and talented ensembles that Lawrence has to offer. It turns out, however, that Lawrence is home to another notable group: Porky’s Groove Machine, a funk band comprised of both current Lawrence students and alumni.
Categorized as both space funk and nerd funk, the band contains the following members: Casey Frensz ‘14, Matt Lowe ‘14, Marshall Yoes ‘14, senior Ilan Blanck, Matt Gunby ‘13, Eli Edelman ‘15, Nick Allen ‘14, Peter Ehlinger ‘14 and junior Jeremiah “Larry” Lemke-Rochon. The band notes, however, that it has a rotating cast sometimes due to the busy schedules of its many members.
Porky’s Groove Machine actually began as a trivia team in the Great Midwest Trivia Contest of 2011, after which the group of students realized that with three horns, a guitar, drums and bass among them, they had, as Allen put it, “the perfect instrumentation for a band.” After one afternoon of rehearsal, the band came up with their first song—which they still perform today—“CatstaC,” inspired by a “Cats: The Broadway Musical” shirt that one of the members happened to be wearing.
After the creation of their first hit, Porky’s Groove Machine played for the annual Octoberfest in 2011 on a stage outside of the Conservatory, a performance which was very well received. The band promptly decided to make it official and embarked upon their performing career. Since then, Porky’s Groove Machine has released several albums, toured across the country, played for Appleton’s Mile of Music festival and recently opened for the hit alternative-rock band Guster at the Egyptian Room in Indianapolis’s Old National Centre this past November.
Since Guster themselves started out as a college band, they held a contest searching colleges for their opening acts, so Porky’s Groove Machine sent in their music videos and were selected. Opening for Guster was Frensz, lead vocals and tenor saxophone; Yoes, trumpet/hypeman; Lowe, trombone; Blanck and Gunby on electric guitars; Rivard, drumset; Edelman, congas; Kristin Olson, auxiliary percussion; and Allen on bass. In addition to opening for the concert, the horn players of Porky’s Groove Machine got to play with Guster on their hit song “Fa Fa,” which requires a horn section. “The experience was incredible, of course,” Allen commented.
Porky’s Groove Machine claims to be influenced by the bands Parliament, Funkadelic and Phish, among others, and finds improvisation and experimentation essential to their music-making/rocking out. Allen said, “Thematically, most of our songs relate to brunch, the mythology of Porky and the Groove Machine, human growth and development ,or some combination of the three.” Similarly, the band’s website adds that “[their] funk focuses on those most crucial themes of brunch, (im)maturity, and anatomy.”
Although Porky’s Groove Machine is currently on hiatus, the band played some shows in Appleton and Milwaukee over the holidays and is making plans for their tour in the summer of 2016. For more information, visit porkysgroovemachine.com, check out the Porky’s Groove Machine Youtube channel or go to porkysgroovemachine.bandcamp.com to check out their music.