|Here Come the Mummies. Photo by Skip Perry.|
Java Mummy is the voice of Here Come the Mummies, the Bronze Age band from beyond the grave that headlined this weekend’s Funk Fest II in downtown Punta Gorda. He doesn’t have much choice.
“Unfortunately, I’m the only one blessed with the ability to speak,” he explained. “He can talk,” Java said, pointing to guitarist Mummy Cass, “but he sounds like this …” Cue a chorus of B-movie mummy-style grunts, groans and lurches from the boys in the band.
That’s pretty much the way it is with The Mummies, a nine-piece group of incognito studio musicians from Nashville who treated Punta Gorda to two hours of non-stop, high energy, horn-driven funk: A Category Five tidal surge of sound that washed over the sea of established fans and instant converts who packed the outdoor venue near the Charlotte Event Center.
Kristina Hogan of Port Charlotte was among those with an inkling of what was to come when The Mummies took the stage. She had seen the band’s videos, including performances of the group’s double-entendre originals “Pants” and “Wiener Man.” She knew this wasn’t going to be an evening with Donnie and Marie.
“I’m a fan of The Mummies,” said Hogan, a self-described groupie of warmup acts “The Crashers” and “Those Guys” who kicked off the funk-filled five-hour bill. “I’m a huge fan.”
Greg Schnitzel and his wife Jerilyn of Punta Gorda were working on blind faith, however.
“Our friends said we had to come see them, we really didn’t know what to expect and they wouldn’t tell us,” Greg said. “I was kind of picturing them as something like the Blue Man Group.” Blue? Yes. Blue Man Group? Not exactly.
“We’re here to get out with friends, enjoy some good music and Punta Gorda at its best. We were told they were a fantastic band, but nobody would tell us more than that except that they were a little different.”
For many in the overflow crowd, the first hint of “a little different” came with the band’s entrance: A torchlight procession of drum-beating mummies that wound through the audience toward the smoke-shrouded stage.
Punta Gorda was about to become Funka Gorda for the next two thorougly exhausting hours. The Mummies don’t do breaks. No pause for the cause. No snappy banter. Not even between songs. The last note of the previous number still echoes as the next begins. And so it goes.
“Unbelievable!” shouted an already-hoarse and physically drained Jessica Kline of Sarasota who struggled to be heard as the band’s front men dropped to the stage floor in unison, performing what can only be politely described as “push ups.”
Back in the improvised “green room,” Java – pronounced JAY-vah – ducked questions about the band’s compulsive secrecy and contractual prohibitions against performing publicly – hence the mummy thing.
“We don’t talk about that stuff,” he said. “Chicks don’t like it. The truth is we were musicians before this,” he said. Then, slipping back into character, “you see, guys chase chicks and we chased the wrong chicks and the pharoh cursed us and we became mummies.”
Mystery breeds speculation. Speculation like The Mummies are really an embalmed reincarnation of Gary Puckett and the Union Gap gone bad. Not so, says Java of the musical guessing game that surrounds the band. “We actually are mummies, and we are funkier – and we’re good at volleyball. The thing about us, if you haven’t figured it out, is that we like to have a good time. We’re more of a combination of Earth, Wind and Fire – and Don Knotts.”
The Mummies – no relation to the similarly-named “budget punk” band of the 90s -sometimes give you a quick peek behind the shroud, but then catch themselves and revert to character. A candid admission that “we currently reside in Nashville” is immediately followed with “because studios are air conditioned and air conditioning keeps us from decomposing.”
Java readily credits the syndicated Bob and Tom show for boosting the Mummy’s profile and putting them on the musical radar screen. “Bob and Tom are great, good friends of ours,” he says. “They like horn-driven music and became fans and friends of ours because of our horn section. Because of them, we’re now playing bigger and better shows – like this one.”
And The Mummies make no apologies for their R-rated material. “It’s kind of naughty, kind of funny. But at the end of the day we have good songs,” says Java. “But we are very sexual as you can tell.”