“Funky Jesus” is no one’s idea of a Christmas carol, but a bouncy version of the new song by the Floozies sounded every bit as festive as “Jingle Bells” at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland on Friday. Mark and Matt Hill, the Lawrence based brothers who create electro-funk as the Floozies, performed for a cheerful audience of more than 1,200.
The duo’s recalibration of the R&B of previous decades for enthusiasts of contemporary electronic dance music has made the Floozies a major attraction on the summer festival circuit as well as one of the most popular bands in its home market. Friday’s concert was its second headlining show at the Midland in 2016.
The Floozies’ peculiar approach teeters between loving homage and disparaging caricature. A repeated reference to Aretha Franklin’s cry of “freedom” from her 1968 hit “Think” on “Birthday Suit” verged on cultural insensitivity. Elements of “Love, Sex and Fancy Things” also resembled an unseemly parody.
Yet the outlandish seasonal costumes worn by the Hill brothers and by many members of the audience indicated that revelry rather than reflection was the evening’s priority. The Floozies are, after all, an accomplished party band.
Mark Hill drummed and Matt Hill played guitar and sang heavily processed vocals over pre-recorded backing tracks that provided the foundation of most of their two-hour set. The long guitar solo on the hard rock spoof “Butt Rock” and the rhythmic workouts that ensued when percussionist Jason Hann of the String Cheese Incident sat in for the second half of the set indicated that the Floozies can engage in prolonged jams that even a Grateful Dead fan might find excessive.
In spite of their showy inclinations, the Hill brothers lurked in shadows. A laptop computer on the stage was more brightly illuminated than the musicians. Video screens that displayed splashes of color, mesmerizing lasers and a bubble machine provided visual interest to the otherwise static presentation.
The members of both opening acts also opted for murky lighting. Autograf, a trio from Chicago, opened its hour-long set by evoking smooth jazz artists of the 1970s and closed with more conventional beat-heavy tracks. Partly because they had a flashy violinist and florid keyboardist, a couple songs performed by the Omaha trio Linear Symmetry resembled dance remixes of Kansas’ classic rock hit “Carry On Wayward Son.”
Matt Hill later opened the Floozies set by serenading the audience with a brief version of “All I Want for Christmas.” Hill’s expression of love and gratitude was fully reciprocated.