K-OS and Five Alarm Funk to fill Del Crary Park with hip hop beats and funk grooves

Toronto rapper and Vancouver funk band perform at Peterborough Musicfest on July 3

Toronto hip hop artist K-OS (Kevin Brereton) and Vancouver-based funk band Five Alarm Funk perform a free, sponsor-supported concert at Peterborough Musicfest in Del Crary Park in downtown Peterborough on July 3, 2019. (Photos: Andrew Francis Wallace and Five Alarm Funk / Instagram)
Toronto hip hop artist K-OS (Kevin Brereton) and Vancouver-based funk band Five Alarm Funk perform a free, sponsor-supported concert at Peterborough Musicfest in Del Crary Park in downtown Peterborough on July 3, 2019. (Photos: Andrew Francis Wallace and Five Alarm Funk / Instagram)

When Fred Anderson brought Canadian jazz great Moe Koffman to Del Crary Park for the inaugural presentation of what was then called the Peterborough Festival of Lights on July 1, 1987, he planted the seed for what would blossom into an annual multi music genre summer concert series that has brought 600-plus artists to Peterborough since.

Today presented under the banner Peterborough Musicfest, music genres including rock, pop, country, folk, bluegrass, swing, big band and classical music have been given their due in a big way since that inaugural concert.

We can firmly add hip hop and soul-infused funk to that list, with the double-bill of three-time Juno-awarded rapper K-OS with frenetic supergroup Five Alarm Funk, both performing at Del Crary Park on Wednesday, July 3rd.

With two platinum certified albums — Joyful Rebellion (2004) and Atlantis: Hymns For Disco (2006) — highlighting his recording studio resumé, K-OS is a household name among fans of the rap genre and a bona fide pioneer of the Canadian hip-hop scene.

VIDEO: “Crabbuckit” – K-OS

Born in Toronto with the less-hip-hop-like name of Kevin Brereton, K-OS’s early musical influences were as diverse as they were numerous, ranging from Michael Jackson and The Beatles to Depeche Mode and A Tribe Called Quest.

At the urging of his friend Nigel Williams, a member of The Pocket Dwellers, K-OS dipped his toe in the musical career waters. That resulted in his 1993 debut single “Musical Essence”, released in 1993 while he was a student at York University.

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It wasn’t until 2003 that K-OS had enough material for a full-length album and Exit followed, peaking at #75 on the Canadian albums chart. What followed for K-OS was a game changer in the form of Joyful Rebellion. The album and its second single, “Crabbuckit”, was rated the most downloaded hip hop/rap album and track on the iTunes Store in Canada.

It didn’t hurt matters that Rolling Stone critic Karen Bliss described K-OS as “a destined supertstar” while placing Joyful Rebellion on her top 10 album list for 2004. In 2005, that album saw K-OS bring home three statues from the Juno Awards.

VIDEO: “Sunday Morning” – K-OS

“When your stuff gets played on the radio and you’re no longer in control of it, that’s when you think, ‘OK, this is no longer me just making music in a studio,” says K-OS in a September 2015 interview with Ian McBride of VICE.

“I was walking in the CBC building on Front Street (in Toronto). A lady was walking towards me. She was walking really fast and it was making me a little nervous. When I moved to the right to get out of her way, she moved to the right, then I moved to the left, and she moved to the left, and then all of a sudden she was like, ‘Crabbuckit! Oh my goodness!'”

“I was like, ‘Thank you.’ She didn’t look like someone I’d hang out with. She didn’t look like someone I knew. That’s when you start realizing you’re affecting things just outside of your reality.”

VIDEO: “The Man I Used to Be – K-OS

It’s a tough act to follow a platinum-selling album, whatever the music genre, but K-OS did just that, repeating the feat with Atlantis: Hymns For Disco, which also scored platinum status with the help of the single “Sunday Morning”, which peaked at #19 on the Canadian Hot 100. Three more albums have followed: Yes! (2009), BLack On BLonde (2013) and, the latest, 2015’s Can’t Fly Without Gravity.

“Everybody wants to be something that eludes them,” says K-OS on the evolution of his musical style.

“I went through a lot of stages when I first started rapping. I was really about trying to change things. Up until Atlantis, all the music I made, I wanted to go out there and change reality, mostly because I hadn’t lived reality. I didn’t know you couldn’t do that. Joyful Rebellion was a little bit of me starting to realize that — ‘OK, you could rebel but you’ve to got to have a good time. It’s a joyful rebellion.'”

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“From Atlantis on, then Yes!, and Black on Blonde, I decided, ‘OK, look, I’m gonna not try to be anything other than myself.’ The music got a little bit more complex, it got a little bit more dangerous, it got a little bit cooler. I loved that stage because those three records saw me step away from ‘Three-time Juno Award winner’ and all the music industry stuff.'”

“Can’t Fly Without Gravity, hopefully, is the new way for people to look at, at least in the hip hop community, the negativity that happens when you try to transcend the forces that pull you down.”

VIDEO: “Dance Dance Party Party” – Five Alarm Funk

Five Alarm Funk’s sound, meanwhile, can be best summed up by the suggestion that you check yourself for a pulse if you haven’t found yourself moving in some form once the band gets going.

Formed in Vancouver by drummer Tayo Branston and guitarist Gabe Boothroyd, Five Alarm Funk brought together musicians with a shared love of groove-driven performers such as James Brown, Tower of Power, and Frank Zappa.

Since that humble beginning more than a decade ago, Five Alarm Funk has graced stages across Canada via six national tours and has released six albums, the latest being 2017’s Sweat which features the fiery rhythms, punchy hornsm and gang-chant vocals that sum up the irresistible essence of the band.

VIDEO: “We All Scream” – Five Alarm Funk

“Our goal is to create all out, feel good dance parties from the moment the music starts until the very last note,” the band relates in a March 2017 interview with Emily Frewin of Canadian Beats Media.

“We have always been known as a live band first. The stage is where the spirit of Five Alarm Funk lives. To be up there giving everything you have to your music, band mates and audience is one the most exciting and fullfilling experiences for us. The shows are a constant barrage of groove, melody, intensity and fun. Be prepared to dance, smile, laugh and get in a killer workout.”

Along with Branston and Boothroyd, the band’s current configuration features Eli Bennett and Jens Christiansen (saxophone), Oliver Gibson (guitar), Tom Towers (congas), Carl Julig (timbales), Kent Wallace (trumpet) and Jay Smith (bass).

VIDEO: “Widowmaker” – Five Alarm Funk

“We always aim for a positive and fun group dynamic. Through the years of touring together we’ve learned the fine points of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Learning how to not bother people is a very important trait in the bus. One thing that has helped keep the band tight and happy in such close confines is everyone is delegated specific duties that have to be done to create a successful atmosphere.”

In other words, the band that plays together … plays together, and in Five Alarm Funk’s case, very well.

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Peterborough Musicfest is presenting 16 free-admission, sponsor-supported concerts featuring a total of 21 acts during its 33rd season — each concert staged on Wednesday and Saturday nights at Del Crary Park.

Overseen by general manager Tracey Randall and staff, a board of directors, and numerous volunteers, Peterborough Musicfest’s stated mission is to “provide diverse, affordable live music to enrich cultural and economic prosperity in our community.”

For more information on this concert or the entire 2019 season, visit www.ptbomusicfest.ca or phone the Peterborough Musicfest office at 705-755-1111.

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Paul Rellinger
Paul Rellinger a.k.a Relly is an award-winning journalist and longtime former newspaper editor still searching for the perfect lead. When he's not putting pen to paper, Paul is on a sincere but woefully futile quest to own every postage stamp ever issued. A rabid reader of history, Paul claims to know who killed JFK but can't say out of fear for the safety of his oh so supportive wife Mary, his three wonderful kids and his three spirited grandchildren. Paul counts among his passions Peterborough's rich live music scene, the Toronto Maple Leafs, slopitch and retrieving golf balls from the woods. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @rellywrites.