When the sun starts to shine and the snow begins to melt, Winnipeggers get the itch to put their parkas and Sorels in the closet and go outside unencumbered by their winter regalia.
For me, winter is officially over when I’m walking around the Exchange District and I hear that low groove rising and falling somewhere off in the distance. There is an ebb and flow of the wah pedal intertwining with a crunchy beat, and a soulful voice singing songs about fire and heartbreak, rising above the din of city life.
Yes, while you are listening for the tweet of the robin, I’m waiting for the moment I hear Taylor and Young play some Urban Street Funk, a band and a genre that is unapologetically only for Winnipeg.
Sure, anybody can enjoy Urban Street Funk, but to really get it you have to stumble upon that grey-haired gentleman with the kickin ‘stache, ripping into his portable drum kit. You have to hear the petite woman with long hair and sunglasses, playing guitar like a preacher giving a sermon about brimstone and damnation. You have to be there when she ends her solo and repeats the last refrain of their song “Fire.” Not until the words, “We’re not so different, you and I,” echo off interlocking brick and craggy facades of the Exchange, do you really get it.
What? That hasn’t happened to you? Well, give it time. Karen Taylor and Scott Young are out there on the street right now, making life in Winnipeg more like a music video. They have designed their presentation and their sound to speak the language of our dirty little city.
They play in public places but they’re not buskers—they jam outside because that’s where the music sounds best. They rock the covered alleyway beside the Artspace building like it was the Fillmore, back when rock and roll was deserving of such palaces.
I’ve said it before and I’m going to keep saying it: Urban Street Funk is the reason you should throw away your iPod, take the phone out of your ear, and listen to the sound of the street. When that low groove off in the distance makes its siren call, you don’t want to miss it.