Section: Arts

Funk band Motown still swingin’ 11 years after its founding

Funk band Motown still swingin’ 11 years after its founding

Courtesy of Lily Ann McBride

Though its founding members have long since graduated, self-proclaimed party band Motown still rocks Kenyon’s halls. You’ll find them at Old Kenyon parties, Village Inn Benefits, and even down in the Kenyon Athletic Center for the odd all-campus event.

“Motown is a party band in more than one sense,” Lily Ann McBride ’17, a singer for the group, said. “I mean, obviously we play parties, but it’s also such a happy, loving group of people. We always have a good time.”

Motown, founded in 2005, currently has 12 members — including two bassists, a trombone player, a trumpeter and multiple vocalists. The ensemble mainly covers ’60s and ’70s funk music like Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” and songs by James Brown.

The group also puts their own spin on the music by giving their musicians improvisational solos throughout the songs.

When Thomas Cox ’17 joined the band his first year at Kenyon, he noted not only the sense of community in the group but also the intense way that group members prepare for show.

“I remember my first rehearsal,” Cox said. “I thought ‘Okay, I’m just going to sit back behind the drums and do my thing,’ and we were all so into the music that it wasn’t until after the show that we were all like, ‘Oh hey, nice to meet you.’”

Despite the strict dedication of each of its members to the music, the band’s bi-weekly rehearsals are always a joyful and vibrant experience. “Playing this music has such a light, celebratory feeling,” Cox said.

Motown has been a fixture on campus in some shape or form for more than 10 years. The group has gone through a revival in the past few years, according to Cox, playing more shows and cementing its place on campus.

“My freshman year was the year Motown started to come back,” Cox said. “Different collections of students over the years have come back and forth to make this music, and in 2013 it really started rolling to go full force.”

By the time McBride joined her sophomore year, Motown was ready to make its triumphant return.

“We kinda just thought, ‘This is stupid, people like Motown, we like Motown,’” McBride said, “So we decided to really push forward with it.”

Now, Motown is thriving. New members join each year as old members graduate, so there is a constant stream of new talent. The group plays 10-12 shows a year, often playing parties and benefits held by fraternities and sororities.

“I think people really respond well to live music,” McBride said. “Parties at Kenyon can risk kinda being the same no matter where you go, so it’s nice to be able to bring something different to the table.”

As for the future of the group, both Cox and McBride said they hope to see Motown continue performing at Kenyon long after they have graduated.

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