The Bud Light tarp falls, the stage crew grunts under the weight of packed-up gear and Forest Park returns to its quiet self. LouFest is over now, leaving only empty beer cups and flattened turf in its wake.
But one week later, after the tired grass bristles anew, St. Louis’ blues district will open its arms to a very different kind of event: Funk Fest.
The festival is the brainchild of Andy Coco, a KDHX veteran who moonlights as a bassist and vocalist for Hip Grease, Gumbohead, Dogtown Allstars and Rhythm Section Road Show. Coco started the festival in 2005 to gather music fans around local musicians, noting that “the quality of talent in the St. Louis music community was high enough to support a world-class music festival.”
Coco’s ongoing decision to keep the festival local in its focus is born out of a deep respect for St. Louis’ musical scene.
"There are very few cities that have the talent and venues like we do in St. Louis. There’s such a wealth of it, and we take it for granted," he says. "If you go outside the U.S., people think of us when they think of great American music cities. That’s just not the case at home."
This year, Funk Fest spreads from its usual headquarters at the Broadway Oyster Bar to BB’s Jazz, Blues & Soups and Beale on Broadway. From 8 p.m. on Saturday to 8 p.m. on Sunday, the blues district of St. Louis will be awakened. Not only by the sounds of St. Louis’ unique musicality, but by a feeling of community and an appreciation for this city we call home. Some two dozen bands will play, including Funky Butt Brass Band, Mo E All-Stars, Soulard Blues Band and Marquise Knox.
"The people who are keyed into the scene are passionate about what they do and who they support," Coco says. "We’re in it for the community and that’s what Funk Fest is all about.
“If there’s one thing I want to get across,” he adds, “it’s that music is a great connector of people. There are a lot of structures intended to separate us from each other, and music is there to connect us. We’re in it for the community and that’s what Funk Fest is all about. That’s what’s most important to me.”