Back in the day, back when FunkFest was a tongue twister rather than a household word, it was all about Here Come the Mummies.
Nobody had heard of that band, but Matt Nemec, promoter of FunkFest along with his son, Nick, had seen it and liked it. Matt wanted to introduce its music to others.
He brought them to Punta Gorda.
That was 10 years ago. And what began as an event held in the parking lot of a wine bar, then made its way to the front of the Historic Courthouse, is now a two-day 10 band extravaganza planned for Feb. 15 and Feb. 16 at City Marketplace in downtown Punta Gorda.
Here’s what has happened in those 10 years:
About 500 people attended the first Mummies show. Now, you can expect another 4,000 to show up with the 500.
The Mummies were a huge hit. Folks found out that the wrappers can play a mean rag.
The bands keep getting bigger as the years went by. One year, the Mummies walked alone. All of a sudden, Tower of Power was playing the same stage. This year, it’s Lettuce and Papadosio joining the beloved Locomotive Breaths.
The Mummies, Lettuce and Papadosio will headline Saturday’s lineup. The bill also includes the Werks, Voodoo Visionary, the Joe Marcinek Band, Funk You, Hedonistas and Banyan.
The Floatiez will join the Werks, Voodoo Visionary, Funk You and Hedonistas on the festival’s first day, Feb. 15.
Tickets begin at $25 for Friday’s show, $60 for Saturday’s. A variety of ticket plans are available. Gates open at 4 p.m. Friday, noon Saturday.
VIP this year will be themed. Called Captain Nemo’s Nautilus Lounge, it will feature complimentary craft beer and boutique wine, cash liquor bar, bathrooms, leather couches, special effects, and up-front stage access.
More than 15 vendors, including food trucks, will be on the grounds for all ticketholders.
“This is the kind of lineup we’ve always wanted to bring in,” Nick said. “We always kind of want to push the envelope. We always want to bring in bands that are nationally recognized as premier bands. To this point, we really hadn’t grown it large enough to take the risk to do it.”
Matt chuckled: “In the beginning, it was all word of mouth. Who’s the hot band? Who’s available? Can we pay them enough to get them down here?”
Lettuce and Papadosio are two of those bands that FunkFest would not have been able to afford in its infancy.
Lettuce is a funk band that originated in Boston in 1992.
“If Tower of Power was the old-school funk,” Nick said, “Lettuce is the new school. They hit notes that are just mind-boggling. Their energy on stage is incredible.”
“We are always looking for the beat of the moment,” Lettuce’s bass player, Erick ‘Jesus’ Coomes, told Matt Nemec. “We make a combined effort to stay in the moment. We plan to feed off the energy of the crowd and find the most beautiful pocket in which all can love, move and groove.”
Papadosio is known for seamlessly flowing between rock and jazz in its music, which is reminiscent of Yes. Papadosio is also known for a killer light show. The boys promise to “hit all the genres in our set” and bring “dancing, fun, a great time,” keyboardist Billy Brouse said. “Expect it to get a little weird, too, because that’s what we do.”
“Lettuce and Papadosio play the biggest festivals in the country,” Matt said. “For them to come down to Punta Gorda is just unheard of. It really puts us on the map as a festival town.”
The Mummies, of course, have become FunkFest’s house band, having played every incarnation, so to speak.
“They’re a household name, almost,” Matt said.
While the identities of the Mummies are secret, they are world-class musicians who bring with them a show with great thrust as well as music that wraps fans in a hip-grinding dance trance.
The Mummies’ advice regarding their 10th anniversary performance at FunkFest?
“Bring protection, Punta Gorda,” Mummy Cass said. “Bring your protection for the sun during the day, and to get down at night.”
“I don’t know how many ways you can say it,” Matt declared. “You got to come to this. You have to come. You just have to.”
For more information, go to www.funkfest puntagorda.com.