On Friday, funk-rock party band Flow Tribe will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its annual Christmas Crunktacular holiday blowout at Tipitina’s.
That this is actually the 11th Crunktacular will in no way detract from the festivities.
“It started in 2007, but we didn’t realize last year was the 10th anniversary until it was over,” Flow Tribe singer/trumpeter K.C. O’Rorke explained recently. “Like everything in Flow Tribe, it’s improvised, then realized later. So we’re calling this one the 10th anniversary.”
Consisting mostly of 2004 Brother Martin High School graduates, Flow Tribe has evolved into one of New Orleans’ tightest, most consistently entertaining bands, with an ever-growing resume of recordings and tours.
Along the way they’ve collaborated with a wide cross-section of fellow New Orleans musicians. For their 2017 album “Boss,” the band worked with famed New Orleans hip-hop guru Mannie Fresh, the producer behind Juvenile’s multi-million-selling “400 Degreez” album and most of Cash Money Records’ classic catalog. Other "Boss" guests included R&B singer/songwriter and Maroon 5 keyboardist PJ Morton, and members of Tank & the Bangas and Sexual Thunder.
Following the spring release of “Boss,” a collaboration with New Orleans hip-hop producer Mannie Fresh, the members of funk-rock band Flow Tri…
The band wound down 2018 with a brief Midwestern tour ahead of this weekend's Crunktacular. It was, in some ways, a year of hard knocks, as Flow Tribe was robbed not once but twice.
While on tour in San Francisco, they, like other New Orleans bands before them, fell victim to that city’s epidemic of smash-and-grab robberies. As the musicians ate lunch nearby, their rental van’s windows were shattered; thieves made off with laptops and guitars.
Back home months later in New Orleans, someone cut through the heavy-duty locks on the band’s equipment trailer when it was parked in Mid-City. This time, around $5,000 worth of gear disappeared, including the keyboard that the late New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint used when he sat in with Flow Tribe at Tipitina’s.
Insurance covered some of the losses, but the musicians had to pay for the rental van’s windows out-of-pocket. “It’s been a steep learning curve,” O’Rorke said. “For a solidly middle-class, independent band like us, our profit margin is small.”
That said, O’Rorke and his bandmates are looking forward to what lies ahead. They spent most of the past year laying the groundwork for what they anticipate will be a big 2019. That effort included finishing Downman Sounds, their studio in New Orleans East.
Starting in January, they plan to release a new digital single each month. They’ll eventually gather those singles together in a physical album, “Downman Sounds, Vol. 1.”
After performing at a benefit concert Thursday night at Tipitina’s, K.C. O’Rorke, the singer and trumpet player for the popular local band Flo…
They recently signed with local imprint Bubble Bath Records. As part of the deal, they’ll facilitate the release of music by other bands they’ve come to know, music that will likely be recorded at Downman Sounds.
“For the past 10 years, we’ve come across like-minded bands on the road,” O’Rorke said. “Our studio will be a hub of creativity for these other bands to do their thing. And the studio will give us more time to create without feeling like we’re under the gun.”
Case in point: “Hammered on Christmas,” Flow Tribe’s newly released single. “Hammered on Christmas” was inspired by O’Rorke’s own family holiday gatherings. “You always end up feeling the spirit,” he said. “Any New Orleans event is booze-soaked. This is about the revelry of a New Orleans Christmas.”
The song is considerably more laid back than other, more up-tempo entries in the Flow Tribe catalog. It eases along on a country-meets-the-islands vibe, with the Revivalists’ Ed Williams draping pedal steel guitar across the entire arrangement. “We’re dipping our toes into the warm waters of Jimmy Buffett-land,” O’Rorke said.
The song “is a thank-you to everyone who has supported us. We hope they play it at their Christmas parties.”
The annual Crunktacular is the band’s open-to-the-public Christmas party. Presents are tossed. A Christmas tree is displayed. Mrs. Clause and other special guests make appearances. The likes of Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad” and Elvis Presley’s “It’s Christmas Time, Pretty Baby” are performed, but, noted O’Rorke, “dipped in that Flow Tribe sauce.”
The Crunktacular “is the one show we look forward to every year. Everyone is back in town, so it’s always a big homecoming show, bringing in the whole New Orleans diaspora.
“And this one is extra special, being the 10th, or 11th, year.”
Tickets for Flow Tribe's Christmas Crunktacular are $20. Shamarr Allen & the Underdawgs open the show at 10 p.m.