Last week, I had the pleasure of attending one of the most unique shows I think I’ve seen at The Hi-Fi in Fountain Square. If you’re at all into jazz, funk, comedy, or just a good time, you’d have enjoyed it too.
Cory Wong is a Minneapolis-based musician, guitarist, and all-around stand up guy. I had a chance to interview him before the concert, which you can find transcribed here. In it, we talked about his new album, “The Optimist”, as well as his time working with both Vulfpeck, and the Fearless Flyers.
But Cory Wong wasn’t the first to take the stage at The Hi-Fi. The opening act was a collaborator of his, Cody Fry.
Opening Act: Cody Fry
When I walked into the Hi-Fi it was a few minutes past nine, and the place was packed, as full as I’ve ever seen it. There was little room to squeeze through the crowd, but somehow I managed to carve myself out a small space to the right of the stage. As I did, Cody Fry was sitting on a stool with a guitar on stage, prefacing his next song.
Cody Fry is a one man band on the stage, who uses supporting backing tracks during his set. He’ll sing one song while playing guitar, speak to the audience for a bit, then hop over to a keyboard to sing the next one.
The whole thing feels like one big, musical comedy act, except for the fact that none of the songs are funny in any way. They’re softer, more sentimental, and seem to take themselves more seriously than Fry takes his stage presence. While that sounded like a criticism, I think it’s actually a good thing. The humor helps balance out the heaviness of some of Fry’s songs.
Cody Fry prefaced one song with a humorous story about how it was used as his American Idol audition. “They weren’t having it,” he said, “And, well, I’m not the next American Idol, obviously”. He then launched into a funny, jazzy rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to the crowd’s delight.
The highlight of Cody Fry’s act, however, had to be when Cory Wong and his band came onstage to help finish off the set. The four additional musicians had a big impact on those last few songs, and brought so much more energy than I had seen up until then.
When Cody Fry left the stage, so did Cory Wong and his band, and the Hi-Fi settled into a brief intermission between the two sets. During this intermission, a big screen projector behind the stage displayed a medley of music videos to set the mood. The audience were treated to a mix of Prince, Vulfpeck, Cory Wong, Earth, Wind, and Fire, and more.
Eventually, Cory Wong and his band came out and introduced themselves. Cory did all the talking, and soon launched into a monologue about how he met the smooth jazz saxophonist Dave Kob, who taught him the secrets to smooth jazz success.
These three secrets turned out to be, 1: Grow a mustache; 2: Wear white pants; and 3: Wear a gold chain. Cory himself was sporting all of these, except for the gold chain, which one of his drummers wore.
This was how the concert went. Cory Wong would monologue or rant about music theory, history, or related topic, get a lot of laughs, then launch into a frenetic, funky jam; rinse, and repeat. At one point, he gave a long lecture about a specific high hat pattern to preface an attempt by the band to burn out the more technically-proficient drummer.During another, he walked the crowd through how to measure out a 25/8 time signature.
Cory Wong and his band only played one cover throughout their whole show, but they picked it well. As soon as the band launched into an instrumental version of Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name”, the whole crowd cheered.
The band ended with another funky jam that incorporated the flange pedal (which Cory calls ‘the jelly’). After they left the stage, they came back out for an encore at the crowd’s request, and took things into “sixth-gear” with the help of the flange, and ride cymbal.
Cory Wong is as equally talented a musician as he is an entertainer. His upbeat, positive energy was infectious, and his ability to build up the anticipation before each song was second to none. His energy kept the show lively, unpredictable, and incredibly fun.
Cory Wong was by far one of the most enjoyable and unique performances I have ever attended in Indianapolis. If you ever get the chance to see him and his band play, don’t let it slip by. You don’t know what you’re missing.