Drippin’ Finesse

The glorious era of R&B was endangered by the passing of two of its patriarchs, Michael Jackson and Prince.
But a new king was born in Bruno Mars, who exploded on the scene with a fusion of R&B, funk and pop. All was right in the R&B kingdom.
His music brought the genre back to life with huge international hits that raced up the charts and settled in the Top 10 for months. “Uptown Funk,” “Just the Way Your Are,” “Grenade,” “The Lazy Song,” “Locked Out of Heaven,” “Treasure,” “When I was Your Man,” and “24K magic” are some of his most recognizable songs, with catchy lyrics and beats that make you want to move.
Mars swept the Grammy Awards, dominated the American Music Awards and holds three Guinness World Records. No one is flying higher than this multi-talented Hawaiian native.
So when a group called Uptown Funk decided to pay tribute to the man and his music, nothing short of perfection would do.
Evan, Honore, Daniel, Danny, Zap, Sam and Jesse make up the L.A.-based tribute band and they pull out all the stops to recreate the Bruno Mars concert experience.
“The idea was started about two years ago,” said Daniel Coffeng, band manager and guitarist. “When Bruno Mars’ success became very apparent and there were no Bruno Mars tributes, we decided, ‘oh, let’s do exactly that.’ So we’ve been actively gigging since January of this year and it’s been a raging success.”
Considering Mars himself is a hardworking and successful touring artist, the group knew the recreation had to be letter perfect.
“In our case, what makes us different is the choreography, which can be intense, and having a great Bruno impersonator,” Coffeng said.
It begs the question, what would Mars think about bands performing tributes to his music?
“I think if you do a tribute justice, if you really pay tribute to the artist, by being their fan and recreating their show, I would think most bands or most artists that are still around would be okay with it,” he said. “He knows of us because one of his production managers once came to one of our shows.
“Most artists just see it as a joke or they laugh at it or they see it as a compliment. We’ve done well.”
One of the biggest challenges for a tribute group is making sure everyone is on the same page, checking the egos at the front door.
“Finding the right musicians that understood not only what a tribute band is, and what it does, was difficult. Along with getting them to understand its philosophy and its commitment and approach,” Coffeng said. “They also had to be able to tour and have some kind of understanding of R&B funk because traditionally, the tribute scene is coming from a classic rock perspective. I think we’ve done that.”
In addition to what each guy brings to the stage to make the show successful musically, they each play a role logistically with the business side, as well.
“We have separate roles within the band,” Coffeng said. “I manage the group, our ‘Bruno’ does social media and he maintains the website, our drummer is the musical director, our trombone player is in charge of transportation, the saxophone player and the bass player take shifts driving if we do a van tour or something. We each take on a role because no one person can do this on their own.”
What started as gigs in southern California has evolved into a world tour.
“We’ve been touring nationally and internationally,” Coffeng said. “We’ve played everywhere from New York, North and South Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, and the international show was on the island of Bermuda. That was fun.
“This year we’re going to try to focus on doing more international work and maybe some cruises,” he added. “We’ve done 54 shows since March, sometimes as many as five shows a week. It’s been a blessing, but also it’s been rough and intense. It’s crazy—people love us. It’s become something of a career for everybody.”
The reason the band doesn’t offer last names?
“Because this blew up so fast and if we keep the players’ names a little bit anonymous, they’re not necessarily going to be associated with this in other stuff they do in their careers, that’s the only reason.”
While Uptown Funk is making waves with their rendition of the musical Mars’ attack, there are other tributes out there that don’t exactly meet the mark.
“There are a few Bruno Mars tributes out there, but what sets us apart, for sure, is the accuracy of the show, its layout, its performance, its choreography and its look,” Coffeng said. “We have a very distinct look that constantly keeps being updated, in the sense that we look at what Bruno is doing constantly. We’re all big fans of his and that helps.
“We’re not the first (Mars tribute) in the world. The first one was actually an English band. The other Bruno Mars tribute bands that are in the United States, I really don’t pay that much attention to them.”
One of the key things that sets this group apart — every thing is performed live.
“Yes, we are actually playing, singing and dancing, which is not easy,” Coffeng explained. “It’s a good show for all ages, we cater to all ages because the fans of Bruno are from 7 years old to 70 and everything in between. We try to be accessible to everybody.
“And yes, the crowd favorite is ‘Uptown Funk,’ which we usually close our set with. Of course, there are definitely certain ones that go over with the guys in the group and the fans better, which is anything that was a big hit and anything off of his new album. It’s freshest in people’s memories. So anything from 24K Magic is always spectacular.
“Our show is a good quality, accurate depiction of a Bruno Mars concert experience, if you will.”


UPTOWN FUNK

The Grand Ballroom at the Avi

Friday, Aug. 31 (8 p.m., doors open 7 p.m.)

See “Showtimes” for ticket info