Old-school funk rocks downtown San Luis Obispo once again when Burning James and the Funky Flames return to Concerts in the Plaza Jun 29.
James Scoolis (guitar and vocals) said the band plays music that is personally interesting to him. Their music isn’t stuff that’s been done over and over again, he said.
“Burning James” performed at Concerts in the Plaza last year. He said the crowds’ energy makes for a really fun concert. He also said that the interaction makes the band play better.
“It’s a party,” Scoolis said about Concerts in the Plaza. “It’s festive. The crowd is large and everyone is coming to have a good time.”
“Burning James” has been together for more than two years. Scoolis said “Burning James” is his favorite band he’s played in. According to him, the music is interesting and kind of tricky. Scoolis said there aren’t many other bands in this part of the country that do what Burning James does.
“I think it’s a unique niche we’re filling,” he said. “I’m feeling really happy about it.”
Scoolis was working with Chaz Matisse (bass) on a different project before “Burning James.” They both have an appreciation for James Brown, Scoolis said, and started looking for a drummer. Eventually, they found Rick Pitmann (drums and vocals), the house drummer for the Clubhouse.
“We wanted to play old-school funk and we wanted to play it right,” Scoolis said.
Scoolis’ fascination for guitar driven rock n’ roll started in the earlier ’70s, back when the Rolling Stones were in their twenties and Eric Clapton was a young punk, he said. Scoolis said rock n’ roll is based on soul, funk and R&B that’s challenging. Scoolis started following people who were better than him and eventually got his own band.
“I followed that tune until I got good enough to do it,” he said.
This year, Burning James and the Funky Flames partners with Concerts in the Plaza sponsors Creeky Tiki. This is Creeky Tiki’s fourth year sponsoring Concerts in the Plaza. Brett Butterfield, owner of Creeky Tiki, said in these economic times, Concerts in the Plaza is a good free event that brings the community together.
“We learned in year one we needed to step up and support (Concerts in the Plaza).”
Managing Partner Mike Marquez said Creeky Tiki sponsors Concerts in the Plaza because, as a business in the Downtown Association, it’s about giving back to the community and Cal Poly. Marquez said the event is unique because all the musicians from the area and there aren’t usually any issues.
“I try to sneak away from work to go see everything,” Marquez said.
Concerts in the Plaza takes place at Mission Plaza in downtown SLO and is hosted by the SLO Downtown Association. Concerts in the Plaza has rocked in the Plaza for 17 years.
The concert series started as a promotion for the SLO Downtown Association to bring people downtown in hopes they would patron other businesses afterward to eat or shop, Sarah Ragan, promotions coordinator for the Downtown Association, said.
“We take pride in being the premiere summer concert series on the Central Coast,” Ragan said.
Ragan said 70 bands applied for the slots this year. To be chosen for Concerts in the Plaza, bands are required to fill out an application and send in a demo.
A selection committee for the association looks for many things when deciding a performer; some qualities are stage presence, sound quality of vocals and acoustic and local following. In order to support local bands, all the bands selected are either from SLO or Santa Barbara counties, Ragan said.
Every Friday until Aug. 31, Concerts in the Plaza has a mixture of returning bands as well as new bands.
“We are proud to bring back local favorites, but we also bring in new bands,” Ragan said. “We like to mix it up every year.”
Concertgoers can expect to have a good night, with great food, drinks and live music, Ragan said. Concerts in the Plaza is a free, all ages event that’s great for socializing and meeting new people, she said.
“We have the best local bands, best beer, best wine and best food vendors,” Ragan said.
The free concert begins at 5:00 pm at Mission Plaza.