West End Blend back at the Waterhole Saturday

(Photo provided)

Soul/Funk collective West End Blend will return to the Waterhole Saturday night to play Winter Carnival and party with the community.

The 10-piece band is comprised of vocalist Erica Bryan, drummer Sam Horan, bassist Tom Sullivan, keyboardist Paulie Philippone, guitarists Jesse Combs and Mike Dipanfilo as well as John Mundy on trombone, Mike Bafundo on trumpet, Mike Oehmen on tenor saxophone and Vicky Medieros on baritone saxophone.

The group was started in a basement dance party in a house in the West End of Hartford, Connecticut by Horan and Combs, who wanted to form an all-inclusive collective, Bryan said.

“It was more about making people dance, making people party,” she said. “You know, we had a lot of covers that we were inspired by or directly used. Classic soul like Sly and the Family Stone and Stevie Wonder, that sort of ilk. It eventually grew into something where we were bringing in more originals. We developed our own sound that was some sort of combination of funk, soul and hip-hop and so I think I would say we’re more of a funk, soul and hip-hop collective.”

Bryan said the band grew to 15 or 16 members at one point and started to gain a following. The band ended up getting a weekly residency at a hot dog joint/music venue.

“We started to realize that things we’re getting a little bit more serious as we were getting a little more attention,” she said. “We brought in more originals and people liked those too, as well as our covers, and that was very cool to see, so I think we were beginning to realize that things were picking up. And over the years, we’ve determined or we’re working on determining who we exactly are as West End Blend while keeping that original vibe of positivity and as much all inclusivity as we can have.”

The band is excited to come back to the Waterhole as it’s always been a good time and had an upbeat atmosphere, Bryan said.

“I mean the Waterhole is the Waterhole; they know how to party,” she said. “And we go there always expecting some really great vibes. People come in and they’re really excited.”

She said the audience should expect an exciting night as Bella’s Bartok, will open the show with a more folk-oriented sound and West End Blend’s sound will be tighter than ever before.

“The crowd should expect more of a refined sound from us,” Bryan said. “We’ve been working a lot on our originals. We’ve just finished initial recording for a brand new album we’re coming out with, some sort of something that we’re coming out with, in the future this year, I believe. We’ve been working to sort of refine our sound even more than we have in the past. So people can expect a lot of what they’ve seen before, but we just want to make sure they know we’re here, we’re ready to do our thing as a funk and soul group but we also have a lot of new stuff coming out.”

Bryan said Saranac Lake residents have always been welcoming since the first time the band played the venue.

“Somehow in the middle of this chilly environment that we had previously never been to before, we managed to have a decent following,” she said. “We got a lot people up and dancing whether we we’re playing covers or originals. Winter carnivals in the past have been absolutely phenomenal and we have also played outside in the past during the summers as well and it’s been fabulous.”

Bryan said the band expects to have a high-energy show, which will get the audience dancing and partying.

“Music is very important especially at this time in our lives, whether you’re in your 20s or just going through life in 2017,” she said. “And music I feel is important for everybody’s energy, everybody’s mental health, it’s very important for everyone’s well-being to be able to experience music. And what we offer and what Bella’s Bartok offers is a really thought-provoking, while energetic and fun, also very thought-provoking, sonic experience. They get to jam out to music they know and music they don’t and just get exposed to music and be able to dance. I think that’s extremely, extremely important, now possibly more than ever.

“Keep music alive and keep on supporting live music. It’s extremely cliche but it’s extremely important.”

Doors open at 8:30 p.m. and the show begins at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $10.