By Sam Lawrence
Nobody is having more fun at a Manic Focus show than Manic Focus. His exuberance is infectious as he sways back and forth, punching and hugging the air in front of himself. Strapped to his left wrist is a futuristic little beatpad with illuminated squares of purple and green that are rarely stationary long enough to be anything but a rainbow blur.
This show was a friendly, casual affair at Terminal West. The Thursday night crowd didn’t sell the floor out, so a long table was left up at the back of the audience where people could sit, rest their drinks, or, in the case of one inebriated fellow, take a little nap. The crowd was well spaced out, full of smiles. From what I observed, many strangers became friends that night.
Artifakts kicked things off with a welcoming opening set of cheery, funky, mid-tempo hip-hop beats. We ate during most of his set at Terminal West’s (fantastic) adjacent restaurant, Stationside. If you like spice, I highly recommend the chicken empanadas with the salsa verde, or, if you don’t eat meat, the tempura avocado or maduros with whipped chipotle honey are great vegetarian options.
Next up were Atlanta locals, Modern Measure, a two-man team of bass guitarist / dj and drummer. They kicked things up a notch with some trap and hip-hop remixes before settling into a funky groove. They’re an odd pair. A highly enthusiastic drummer bashing his drums and holding his sticks aloft with all the drama of a rockstar in the 80s, while the DJ/Bassist sports a much calmer demeanor and seems to almost disappear into his instrument.
By the time Manic Focus came out, the crowd was swaying and bobbing heads, and starting to get comfortable around each other. He threw out a great set of future funk and jazzy hip-hop which he easily riffed over on a keyboard, mixing in song selections and effects from the little controller on his wrist. A live drummer joined him on stage as well. The ambiance became reminiscent of a rock and roll show, with slightly funkier, bassier music.
An artist like Manic Focus, and indeed all his companion’s on Griz’s All Good Records, speaks to the roots of American music, reaching deep into the history of funk, blues, and rock. Coupling those folky feelings with modern bass beats and hip-hop vibes. It’s the sort of music that makes you wish you were at a house party with everyone in the crowd, or even wonder if perhaps that’s exactly where you’re at. My companion and I were able to freely move around the entire venue with ease, order drinks without shouting, and met several new people in the crowd, having conversations just feet from the stage. Hat pins were inspected, stickers and cards exchanged, and I had countless daps and high fives with strangers all night.
The show was mostly continuous with very few gaps in the music, or dialog between artist and audience. To wrap things up, Manic Focus brought out all of the openers to the stage and they had a DJ / Bass Guitar / Drum Kit / Bongo jam session to close out the night. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was heart-warming, and I couldn’t help leaving with the impression that those guys on stage were living their lives in the happiest way they could imagine.
I personally am not the biggest follower of future funk, or even Manic Focus’ music (though I recognize its quality). However, I left impressed at how much joy he takes in performing his music, and what a positive community surrounds the genre. Even though I didn’t know many of the songs, and am by no means a serious fan, I really enjoyed myself. I felt like everyone in attendance did too. For an artist signed to “All Good Records,” I couldn’t have asked for anything more than that.