During my coverage of the big names at Aura Fest I stumbled across a funk-rock band from Tennessee whose set made me forget that I was supposed to be taking photos and instead had me wondering what year I was in.
Friday I was on my way into the festival to make my photo rounds when up walks this Elvish looking dude with a Moog sweater (and unbeknownst to me a insanely groovy R&B soul) who tells me to watch his band play at the Vibe tent later that day. As the chick with the Media pass and the giant DSLR, I get a lot of these invites but I really like Lord of the Rings so I decided to check them out. I’m so glad I did.
A guy in the audience called them the “Sleeper band of the weekend”.
Well I’ll see your “sleeper band” and raise you one “These guys will be playing the Grammys one day”.
That may seem like a bold prediction, but bold is Backup Planet’s kind of thing. Calling them a funk-rock band really only scratches the surface of what these guys can play; they throw in funk, jazz, blues, progressive rock, electronic and even a little metal into the mix of their dynamic performance. I grew up with a lot of 70’s funk and rock (thanks mom and dad) so listening to these guys was like going back in time. But, not in the way that a lot of musicians nowadays try to mimic the sounds of a particular decade by just sprinkling some new age techno vibes on top. Backup Planet practically reinvents the sultry sounds of 70’s funk-rock and intertwines them between popular yet enigmatic progressive rhythms with such finesse that you’ll be looking for a time machine parked behind the stage.
I met with Ben Cooper, who plays keys for the band, after the show to find out more about the groups musical roots and inspirations.
“Our musical influences are all over the board, Gavin [Guitar] is a huge Allman Brothers fan, Pantera, sort of the Heavy stuff. I love Earth Wind and Fire, hip- hop funk and soul…Blake [Bass] is really into jazz and more progressive fusion type stuff, Chris [Drums] is really all over the board, he grew up on the rock side. We also love Rage Against the Machine”
That explains where the energy comes from. You’d think such a varied repertoire of musical tastes would be impossible to successfully mesh together, but Backup Planet has no problem showing all their true colors in their performances with pristine cohesion. Their shows are full of so much passion and energy that you feel like you’ve been singing along to their songs in your car for years. I feel like every single person in the audience feels like their Backup Planet’s biggest fan. Not only are their rehearsed performances incredible, they throw in rapturous improvisations throughout the set so flawlessly that no matter what you think you can expect from the show, you’ll always be left in awe. The extent of their talent is extremely far-reaching considering not just the variety in their musical influences but the music they can cover. At this last show they covered Nick Jonas’ pop sound and went all the way to the other side of the spectrum with a cover of legendary Billy Cobham.
With a guitarist who emanates pure electricity through his strings, a powerhouse of a drummer who moves faster than the speed of light (Seriously, my camera was not prepared for the shutter speed required to capture his kinetic performance), a bassist who manages to be hardcore and yet smooth at the same time, a singer who plays four different keyboards in tandem (and dances the whole time), and the euphoric energy that radiates between them, going back to the future with Backup Planet will without a doubt leave you in wonderment, admiration and reverence.
When I asked where they got the name from Cooper responded “I was working at a liquor store in college and was stressed out about an exam and in a fight with my girlfriend. The TV was on and every news channel I switched to was talking about how the world was coming to an end. Fox was complaining about MSNBC and vice versa. All I wanted to do was escape and play music. I wished I had a Backup Planet where I could escape from the mundane aspects of every day life and be completely carefree. And that’s what happens every time we play music so it just seemed to fit. It’s very therapeutic. ”