The lasting progression of the city’s hardest working soul band
“A couple weeks ago, we played a thank you reception for The Big Table. A man approached us afterwards and said he saw us perform six years ago. He said that he was in a car accident a few days after that performance, putting him into a week-long coma, and that the first thing he remembered when he woke up was seeing Mojoflo, and that he had a damn good time.”
Yeah, Mojoflo is that good.
In many ways, this somewhat unbelievable anecdote epitomizes the raw power of Mojoflo’s music, a band that has risen to the apex of Columbus neo-funk—their trumpeting melodies and soft, delicately crooned hooks reminiscent of an art-damaged James Brown tinged with an Erykah Badu swoon. Their sound is luscious and smooth, funky and raucous, and, as demonstrated above, sincerely unforgettable.
“It’s high-energy party music, but there is newness to it. It’s all of our experiences as musicians coming together,” said vocalist Amber Knicole. “What we are doing is classic funk music filtered through the 2000s.”
And lately, she’s been doing all that from roughly 20 feet above the stage. It’s the latest venture for a band that prides itself on coma-busting concert presence: Knicole, on an aerial hoop, belting out each note with a hypnotic swing, mesmerizing the crowd with her funk meeting performance art.
“Yes, our music is great, and you can throw the record on the player and have a good time,” Knicole said, “but I always wanted to be that band that you just have to see in person.” And that is the case in many ways—Knicole is fierce and hypnotizing live, her voice booming off the same ceiling she’s dangling from.
“Performing live is such a communal experience,” said saxophonist Walter Kolhoff, one of the three core members of the group. “It is all about taking everybody in the room on a journey, and once we are finished, everybody feels a little better—well, at least until you wake up in the morning.”
Or, after a week-long coma.
They have had plenty of time to perfect their presence—eight years to be exact—cutting their teeth in campus-adjacent dives five nights a week during their inception, a grueling task when splitting $100 seven or so ways (depending on the night) means doing it for more than the money. Nowadays, they have earned the right to call themselves career musicians.
“I was filling out a form for jury duty the other day, and when asked my occupation I answered ‘musician.’ That was a really weird feeling, to see how far we have come,” said Knicole. “It is extremely validating; Columbus has always shown us a lot of love. I think it’s something that we had to earn; nothing has ever been handed to us. We have never been a ‘what’s hot right now’ band. We have always been this slow burn.”
Lots of love is right—our dear readers voted Mojoflo Columbus’ Best Band of 2016. Their momentum has gained them a sponsorship with Gateway Film Center, who recently premiered their most recent music video, Crazy 4 U, this past February.
In many ways, this partnership demonstrates the full turnaround of the band—as one their first gigs was a street performance playing Christmas covers outside of the theater in the middle of the winter. Now, PromoWest has brought them into the fold, putting them up at the iconic Newport Music Hall on December 2.
Talk about a serendipitous full circle.
“We did things just for the hell of it back then,” said Kolhoff. “Now we have schedules, debuts, and recording sessions. It is just crazy.”
In addition to the upcoming show, the band is working on their first full-length album, one that has been eight years in the making.
“The point of doing this album is so that we could take everyone on a journey, “said Kolhohf. “Our EPs have always been little 30-minute tastes, but now we are finally ready to take people away. That is the existential side of things, at least.”
Mojoflo will be debuting songs from their new album at Newport Music Hall on December 2. Their first full-length record will drop next summer.Rules of the road: Comments that are off topic or can be seen as personal attacks are subject to removal.