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Phat Phunktion, a group of University of Wisconsin-Madison music students formed in 1996, have built a loyal following of listeners throughout the United States and around the world. A nine-piece tour de force that combines the polish of top 40 with the smooth feeling of 60’s soul and the raw groove of 70’s funk, Phat Phunktion is today one of the most talked about bands in the Midwest. Their self-produced CDs have sold in the thousands, and their live shows sell-out virtually everywhere they perform. In their hometown of Madison, WI, they have been known to attract crowds of upwards of 5,000 people.
In 2003, Rolling Stone Magazine singled out Phat Phunktion as a “band on the rise.” During the same year, they won a Wisconsin Area Music Industry Award, or WAMI, for “Best R&B Band.” In May 2003, a panel of Billboard Magazine judges selected the band as one of six acts to perform at the Disc Makers’ Independent Music World Series, Midwest regional final, where they funked up the Elbo Room in Chicago. Of the six finalists, Phat Phunktion and Chicago’s Orbert Davis took top honors. The band has appeared numerous times at the Madison Blues Festival, Milwaukee’s Summerfest, and the House of Blues in Chicago, with television and radio appearances, including “The Jenny Jones Show” and Michael Feldman’s “Whad’ya Know?”
In 2004, Ben and Leo Sidran’s Nardis/Liquid 8 label picked up the band, and their 3rd, self-produced CD, You and Me, was released for international distribution. Since then, You and Me has received substantial interest at home and abroad. In America, nearly 10,000 CDs have been sold to a devoted fan base via word-of-mouth and Internet sales. In Japan, large sales spurred a re-release of the disc on the Japanese label, Groovetime Records. In Europe, the record was played on radio stations throughout Italy and Spain. In July/August 2004, JazzTimes reviewed You and Me, saying:
In 2005, You and Me received the Madison Area Music Award, or MAMA, for “R&B Album of the Year.”During the summer of 2005, Phat Phunktion embarked on their first U.S. National Tour. Following the Nardis release of You and Me, the tour was a turning point for this award-winning band. As keyboardist / co-founder Tim Whalen said at the time, “We are not just a local band anymore.” To promote their music, the band departed from Madison, WI on June 3, 2005, where “Phathead” fans and newly initiated listeners reveled in the band’s original compositions, “bouncing” covers, and newly arranged material. From June 2005 until August 2006, the band played non-stop at festivals and clubs all over the United States from Arizona to New York City and everywhere in between. They were featured at venues such as the Bele Chere Music Festival (Asheville, NC), the Riverbend Festival (Chattanooga, TN), Riverfest (Little Rock, AK), the Art Tatum Jazz and Heritage Festival (Toledo, OH), The Knitting Factory and BB King’s in New York City. They’ve played clubs in New York City, Tempe, Ann Arbor, Atlantic City, Detroit, Syracuse, Philadelphia, Kalamazoo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Milwaukee, plus a two-week swing of the eastern seaboard from New England to the Carolinas.
Shawn Beckner of the Huntington Herald-Dispatch wrote: “They are quite simply the best dance machine to roll through the river city in a while.” Mark Kennedy, Features Editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press wrote: “I was having Tower of Power flashbacks. Since 1976, I’ve been asking myself the cosmic question: ‘What is hip?’ Well now I know: Phat Phunktion.”
Another chapter began when the band toured Japan in February of 2006. This very successful tour had the Japanese press and fans alike hailing Phat Phunktion as the “new Tower of Power.”
Phat Phunktion has shared the stage with musical legends The Temptations, Tower of Power, WAR, Cameo, Morris Day and the Time, The Original “P” (featuring original members of Parliament), The Average White Band, Chick Corea, Taj Mahal, Rick James, Clyde Stubblefield, The Brothers Johnson, Soulive, Willy Porter, and Kool and the Gang. Their dynamic stage show and incredible musicianship have initiated thousands of faithful “Phatheads,” who are now spreading the word.
Phat Phunktion released their fourth album Real Life .:. High Fidelity in 2011. It is a blazing collection of 11 original songs, and it showcases a band that has truly found their own sound. They also celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2016. The show was recorded and released as a live album and blu-ray video set in 2017 titled “Phat Phunktion Live at the High Noon.” For their efforts, they were awarded both Madison Area Music Awards (MAMAs) and Wisconsin Area Music Awards (WAMI).