Connie Buna needs to speak. The de facto leader of Queer as Funk’s motley crew is waving at fans, relaxing for a brief moment after barreling through a series of electrifying performances. But there’s something bubbling up inside her and it’s not just the brownish liquid (whiskey sour?) that she’s been nurturing.
She speaks of herself as a bad student, despite her co-vocalist Jocelyn Macdougall’s insistence to the contrary. She speaks of the privilege she has, being able to perform this kind of music to an audience like hers. She speaks of herself as a member of a larger community, one that stands with Black Lives Matter Vancouver and one of many that stand with refugees. One standing with the Indigenous peoples currently protesting and blocking the construction of the North Dakota pipeline. Each cheer gets louder and each band member looks prouder with every proclamation. It was a moment that, in a normal show, would’ve felt like a defining point — the highlight. Yet, Queer as Funk continued to deliver showstopper after showstopper in a set that showed exactly why the Halloween show has become Vancouver tradition.
First, I have to apologize to Tonye Aganaba — I missed her opening set to the night thanks to my British misunderstanding of the way the 14 Bus to Hastings works. Incidentally, if you do one thing this week, watch her performance of “Safe from Harm” — you won’t be disappointed.
Queer as Funk emerged from the shadows onto the stage just as Manny (my friend that I’d navigated the route to the Fortune Sound Club with, only getting lost three times) and I bought drinks. From out of a blue silhouette, came an eerie chord. And from nothing, came everything — the band coming out in perfect Ghostbuster costumes, the crowd becoming a community bonded by a love of 70s funk and 80s cheese. A mashup of the Ghostbusters theme and “Uptown Funk” was quickly followed by “The Power of Love,” then Prince’s “Kiss,” then by… Aretha Franklin? Honestly, it was all kind of a blur — the band hit so hard with standout performances from Luis “Babyface” Melgar on the keys and bandleader Alison Gorman on trumpet, that I just lost myself in enjoyment.
Oh yeah, also there was a marriage proposal. The band beckoned two girls onstage, who had met and fell for one another at Queer as Funk’s last Halloween show, a year ago to the day. When one said to the other, “I just have one question...,” the room exploded — some crying, some hugging. During the joyous encore of “Shout” by the Isley Brothers, I looked around me. There were couples kissing, friends dancing, people of every age and ethnicity coming together, getting up, getting down and starting all over again. To my side, a person using a walker to move, had slowly made their way towards the front. She danced better than anyone. In 2016, where things feel more uncertain than ever before, I feel I speak for many there when I say that Queer as Funk felt right.