ST. CHARLES – For bass player Mike Zabrin, the best part about being a musician is being able to perform in front of an audience.
Zabrin and his six-piece band, Funktastic, will perform a free show at 7 p.m. July 25 at the Lincoln Park gazebo in downtown St. Charles as part of the St. Charles Park District’s Concerts in the Park series. In the event of rain, the concert will be cancelled.
Picnic-style offerings will be available, featuring Kimmer’s Ice Cream, Bernie’s Bully Dogs, Gia Mia Pizza and Snack Zone. People are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets; alcohol is not permitted.
Kane County Chronicle reporter Eric Schelkopf had the chance to talk to Zabrin about the upcoming show. The interview has been edited for length and style.
Eric Schelkopf: It seems like you and your band are pretty busy this summer. Is that what you like best about being a musician, being on stage?
Mike Zabrin: For sure. That's the reward of it all. The payoff is definitely being on stage. There's nothing that compares to it.
Schelkopf: Is it because of the energy of the crowd?
Zabrin: One of the coolest things about the group is that there is no sheet music at all, which is unheard of for a band that plays a lot of weddings like we do. The reason for that is because we just vibe the crowd the entire night.
It's funny, I'll give the band a set list, and they'll just laugh at me, because I'll never go by it. I think it excites the band because they don't know what song we're going to play next. They really have to be on their toes and know the music really well.
Schelkopf: How did you put your band together?
Zabrin: Before I started this group, I was a sideman for a lot of other bands. And I would just run across amazing musicians and I would be like, "Hey, I need your number."
That's how I met them. Chicago is just a really close-knit community. Our vocalists, Alysha Monique and Amber Ronae, they sing incredibly together.
Schelkopf: What do you think they bring to the group?
Zabrin: Total energy. It's like nonstop energy all night long.
And also they bring just a whole new vibe every single night to the songs that we typically play. They are able to draw in the audience no matter where we're at.
They tell stories on stage and they are so engaging with the audience. They're just great people, for sure.
Schelkopf: How long has Funktastic been around?
Zabrin: It started about five years ago. I didn't even think that I wanted to put a band together. I just wanted to really record my first album because I was playing for a bunch of different musicians and I had all these ideas in my head.
Next thing you know, we're getting the horn section from Kool & The Gang to perform on the record, and the bass player from Fishbone, Norwood Fisher, and Kendra Foster from Parliament-Funkadelic.
So when this record came out, it was a great product, but I had no band. I really didn't even think that far. I just wanted to put out great music.
Schelkopf: Those are some pretty high-powered musicians. How did you land them on your first album?
Zabrin: I was at the NAMM show in Los Angeles, which is pretty much like a music trade show, and I had met this producer there, John Heintz. He produces a band called The Big Ol' Nasty Getdown. They're like the Motown of funk.
He said I was a great bass player and to come out to Los Angeles again, because he wanted to get his friends on my record.
Schelkopf: Your bass playing is well regarded. How have you tried to distinguish yourself from other bass players?
Zabrin: One of the concepts that I've learned from playing with Funktastic over the years is that it's really not about me, it's about the experience and the show. It's just really a fun band.
If you go
WHAT: Mike Zabrin’s Funktastic at Concerts in the Park
WHEN: 7 p.m. July 25; preceded by Pirates Over 40 on July 18, and followed by Howard & the White Boys on Aug. 1, 7th Heaven on Aug. 8, and Final Say on Aug. 15
WHERE: Lincoln Park Gazebo, located along Main Street between Fourth and Fifth streets, downtown St. Charles
INFO: stcparks.org, 630-513-6200