TRIP SLAYMAKER, ’18
Trinity students have always had a fondness for their live music- most notably on weekends, at the Mill on Vernon street. Campus’s most popular live music spot has hosted a great many acts and bands, some born on campus, some visiting talents. While most would agree that Hartford’s own West End Blend is near the top of the list of favorites, there hasn’t been much occasion for the average student, upon seeing the popular band perform, to learn more about the origins and background of the group.
Funky, exciting, and very well populated, West End Blend boasts a roster of ten members. Among them are two sax players, two guitarists, a bassist, keyboard player, a drummer, trombonist, trumpeter, and a lead vocalist. The challenge here is self-evident- The Blend is tasked with packing itself into performance spaces on a regular basis, and has learned to twist and pack themselves in exactly the right way, like a large game of horizontal Tetris.
“We’ve played in spaces that are the size of two flatbeds of a pickup truck,” chuckles Mike Bafundo, trumpet player and vocalist for the band.“We have no problems with personal space.”
But their talent for tight spaces is merely a helpful quirk. the real talent, of course, comes across overwhelmingly in the music. Not quite funk, not exactly soul, the name of the band seems designed to reflect the artistic melding of a handful of genres. Never allowing themselves to be cornered, the Blend is in the habit of reworking classic R&B, funkadelia and soul songs to fit their purposes- and they are loud. Much of the power the group works to cultivate derives from the sheer “bigness” of their sound, and a stage presence that manages somehow to be both bombastic and as silky-smooth as the voice of lead vocalist Erica Bryan.
But ten people don’t often bump into each other in the street and form bands. Like many musical projects, this band formed over time, sometimes increasing, sometimes decreasing in number. According Bafundo, their beginnings were understated.
“I was kind of picked up along the way,” he says, reminiscently.
So how did it happen? After finally applying their musical talents to a jam session at a Halloween party some years ago, a group of college friends, mostly from University of Hartford, found themselves wrapped in the sound of their own newly created music. Continuing their work together, West End Blend grew and changed with each passing year until finally arriving at its ten core members.
While Hartford is rarely mentioned in the context of funk music, the city has been a good friend to the Blend. Small enough to allow a high profile for its artists, and close enough to Boston and New York to allow for travel, Hartford makes for the perfect home base. It is also the location of the Arch Street Tavern, the venue where W.E.B. holds its residency, playing themed sets there with free admission on Wednesday nights, from 10:00 to 11:30. The tavern also plays host to the band’s subcomponent and side project, the band known as Boo-Yah. West End Blend is one of Trinity’s most popular visiting bands, and with a sound as fresh as theirs, there is little doubt that they feel ready to take off to still greater heights.
West End Blend’s debut full-length album “Rewind” is on sale now, and is available on music services like Spotify, and iTunes.
TRIP SLAYMAKER, ’18