Porky’s Groove Machine set up headquarters in Minneapolis two years back, but make no mistake: they’re an Appleton band and they’re not ashamed to say it.
“You see those bands that move from smaller places to Los Angeles and say, ‘we’re from L.A.,’” guitarist and singer Ilan Blanck said. “No you’re not. We’re based in Minneapolis now, but we’re from Appleton. That’s where this started.”
The Fox Valley’s favorite funksters are returning to their native land once again; this time for three performances during Mile of Music.
And while their music has taken them across the Midwest, they haven’t been strangers.
They played a March show at Gibson Music Hall and returned to Appleton in June for the Heid Music Summer Concert Series. Porky’s wheeled their van into Neenah last week for another outdoor show as part of Future Neenah’s evening concert series.
The band got its start at Lawrence University. They know that while they’re now a state away, they’ll still draw a raucous crowd when heading home for a visit. And they’ve been intentional in keeping their Fox Valley fans as part of the circuit.
“I guess it’s a little strange, but it’s normal to us,” drummer Luke Rivard said. “It’s almost like having a long-distance relationship.”
Fans have returned the love.
For those who haven’t experienced Porky’s Groove Machine, know it’s less a concert than a party.
They don’t play at the audience. The audience and band become a cohesive unit as the show unfolds.
The shows are full of interaction, whether its members are leading dances, bantering with the crowd or hopping off stage to play amid the people.
Know you’re going to dance — whether it comes naturally or through some encouragement.
Don’t expect to be struck by anything of grand significance.
You’d figure that out early from a glance at a barefoot, bearded bassist in a pink dress portraying a squid.
The lyrics aren’t going to lead concertgoers into any deep contemplation, unless of course one finds poignancy in an ode to Red Dog beer or eating ham out of a can.
You can expect topics beyond the typical rock n’ roll tropes. There’s a song, for instance, about a technically skilled office employee — “freak in the sheets.”
You know, spreadsheets.
For all the silliness, Porky’s Groove Machine takes it seriously.
The comic aspects only work because of their skillful musicianship. The brass section is rich and holds tight on top of the slap bass groove and precision, rhythmic wah guitar.
“It’s always changing and evolving and that’s what fun about it,” said Blanck, better known as Dave the Red Ranger.
They began as more of a jam band playing college basement parties. They continue to tweak in search of the right balance between planned elements and open space in which things can happen on their own.
Rivard said the move to Minneapolis has allowed for growth in musicianship. There’s a deeper scene for groove music and they’ve built strong relationships. It’s proven beneficial as they’ve found players who can fill in when obligations require.
“They’re even cool with putting on a costume,” he said.
Blanck came to Lawrence from Milwaukee and hadn’t put much thought to music in Appleton beyond campus borders. He had nothing but warm words for the region’s music scene and all it offered as they developed.
“What a special place,” Blanck said. “I had no idea what an incredible community of music I’d be joining.”
Porky’s Groove Machine will play at 9:30 p.m. on Friday at Deja Vu Martini Lounge. They play at 7:40 p.m. Saturday at Emmett’s and will close the night with a 10 p.m. jam aboard the Mile of Music bus.