What started out as a club night in the famed Mission district Elbo Room in 2007, Afrolicious has since grown into a collective of dynamic and skilled funk, soul, and electronic musicians. Since 2010, the group has been playing for packed crowds with a party-ready combination of soulful vocals, funky bass, and lively horns and beats with classic funk, soul, disco, Latin, and Afrobeat.
“As a club night we hosted so many amazing bands, musicians, and DJs from the Bay Area and the city, as well as international,” said Afrolicious’ co-founder Joe ‘Pleasuremaker’ Mcguire, reminiscing on the group’s early days. “We had the honor of building with many amazing musicians over the years and we continue to see new artists come up and blow it up, and it remains super inspiring.”
As the next participating act in Stern Grove Festival’s Local Artist Commission Series, Afrolicious has been asked to create and debut a new song inspired by the theme “Interplay: In Concert with Nature” that doesn’t stray away from their usual funkiness.
“It can be challenging to write a song in general,” says Pleasuremaker, “but the subject matter makes so much sense in the context of our modern times – the need for a relationship to nature. So the subject makes the challenge all more the interesting.”
Stern Grove is an extremely unique concert setting, so naturally the commission focuses on the strong relationship between the artist and the venue’s environment. Those who attended one of Afrolicious’ early Elbo Room club nights or one of their more recent concerts know that the show is more than just a fun musical experience: it’s a raging party. Stern Grove Festival has welcomed musicians from almost every genre out there, but it is always particularly interesting to see how these high-energy, funky groups plan their show around the fact that it is an outdoor concert in the middle of the day – not in a nightclub per their usual show. Understanding these hurdles, their goal is still the same: to wake up the crowd and bring the party to Stern Grove.
“The venue plays a crucial role in how we feel and interpret the music as the sound, dynamics, visual elements, size and if it’s indoor or outdoor greatly affect the sounds and the intimacy,” said Pleasuremaker. “A venue that is inviting, relaxing, beautiful can create much more harmony between us on stage and the crowd. We love playing outdoors when the sound is truly dialed. It’s a magical feeling.”
A major part of Stern Grove Festival’s mission is providing free access to the performing arts for the public, often to artists whose work they are unfamiliar with. Some artists focus on this accessibility (in terms of free admission and exposure to unfamiliar artists or genres) when creating their commissioned piece, and Afrolicious in particular thinks of this as an opportunity to perform for groups of people who otherwise wouldn’t make it out to one of their shows (think children, the elderly, or people who can’t make it to shows in the evening).
“We LOVE that there is no admission,” said Pleasuremaker on behalf of his group. “I came to Stern Grove when I first moved to San Francisco and it was such a great way to be welcomed to the city: great music and open to all. We love this event and have each attended many shows over the years. We get the most excited to share what we do at free daytime events because we can play for everyone!”
A Stern Grove Festival crowd may be pretty diverse, and this depth of character matches that of the Bay Area where people of all kinds flock and frolic. It’s only natural that this diversity seeps into the performance scene. From funk and electro to brass and jazz, the SF Bay Area is home to a vibrant arts and music community. As Pleasuremaker puts it, “San Francisco music scene is ever evolving. Change is the one constant, and that was a great influence on Afrolicious over the years.
“Hard to say there is one sound of San Francisco, it feels more like San Francisco can absorb any genre and flip it into new sounds, and that would be a long term legacy of [it] that continues today.”
Visit our website to learn more about the concert and Afrolicious. Visit Stern Grove Festival this Sunday, Aug 14 to hear them live when the open the stage at 2 p.m. for a cast of musical performers paying tribute to West African synth legend William Onyeabor in “ATOMIC BOMB! The Music of William Onyeabor”.