“That was funky, wasn’t it?” said a grinning Paul Barrere, minutes after the longtime Little Feat guitarist finished a taut 90-minute set. Ending precisely at 9 pm, this intimate performance at Bogie’s Lounge was an early one, even for a Thursday. Billed as Barrere and Friends, in reality, the accomplices playing on this night were, in fact, Funky Feat- a quartet comprised of off-duty Featsters: guitarist, mandolinist, and singer Fred Tackett, bassist Kenny Gradney, drummer Gabe Ford, and Barrere- capping a special show initially postponed in the midst of a most tragic recent period in Southern California.
The original appearance at the Westlake Village club was scheduled for early November. A few days before, one of the region’s most destructive wildfires consumed the area, forcing evacuations. The emergency came closely on the heels of a mass shooting at a nearby Thousand Oaks bar. In the hotel adjacent to Bogie’s, FBI investigators assigned to the tragedy centered their operation, hunkering down while all others around them fled. Barrere’s booking was understandably and indefinitely delayed.
When a January make-up date that could accommodate the four became available, it included the caveat of a 7:30 start and 9 pm finish. So, on the precipice of a 50th anniversary tour for Little Feat, Barrere and his mates took the opportunity for four of the six band members to get in a little pre-season workout and provided a distinctive treat for their SoCal fans. Spreading out 15 songs across the hour-and-a-half, Funky Feat gave the locals a highly entertaining potential preview of their upcoming five-decade celebration.
Though opening with “Down on the Farm,” and ending with “Dixie Chicken,” this was not simply a run through the certified classics of the band’s catalog. Deeper album tracks like “Honest Man,” or Tackett’s beautifully somber “Church Falling Down,” from the group’s most recent album, and faithful covers of The Band’s “The Weight,” and Allen Toussaint’s “Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky” that segued into Hank Williams’ “Lonesome Whistle,” settled in just as nicely, like gold filigree around the gemstones.
The dual string-work of Barrere and Tackett, with Tackett switching between electric guitar and mandolin, reflected their enduring partnership as a touring acoustic duo. Throughout, they left conscientious space for each other almost instinctively, supporting Tackett’s clean-shaven tone or Barrere’s smoldering slide. Ford flexed his polyrhythmic muscles, holding down the shifting blues of “Candyman” as effortlessly as the patient storytelling of “Willin’.” On bass, Gradney remains the immoveable object; never missing a note or a transition, slapping or gliding across the fretboard with entrancing ease.
They stretched out on a “Spanish Moon” that slid into “Skin It Back,” following an “Old Folks Boogie” dedicated to a friend of Gradney’s celebrating a birthday. They bopped on “Rocket in my Pocket,” and kept things heavier than a proper Little Feat appearance in the absence of Bill Payne’s keyboard and Sam Clayton’s percussion, filling holes in the arrangements with the crunching grooves of guitar, particularly on the jagged rock of “Hi Roller” and the rollicking ode to southern poultry on the finale. Summing it up in a five-word answer to Barrere’s rhetorical inquisition: Yes, indeed, it was funky.