Downright to play at Green Bar Friday

Downright to play at Green Bar Friday

Francie Johnson

If Matthew DeVine of funk rock band Downright has learned anything about the music industry, it’s that the true measure of success is not preceded by a dollar sign.

“The reward is in the work itself,” DeVine said. “The reward is getting better at what you do, setting a standard and meeting it, reaching deeper to improve, taking a hard look at your weaknesses and coming to terms with them. Those are all the real reasons to do any art.”

Downright, comprised of DeVine and Steve Lewis, will headline at Green Bar this Friday. Both band members sing and play numerous instruments, including bass, guitar and keyboard.

Downright’s sound merges funk and rock, but the band members hope their audience will take away more from their music than just conventional genre descriptions.

“I want [people] to feel like dancing when they hear [our music],” DeVine said. “If they’re not dancing, I want them to be emotionally challenged by it. To feel something they were not expecting to feel at a given moment. Almost like sneaking in there and reminding them that they have feelings they’d forgotten.”

DeVine and Lewis view music as a means of self-discovery and self-liberation.

“We want to shake people out of complacency, and help them to experience moments together with us,” Lewis said.

(See also “Local bands go their own way”)

“Your own soul needs to be freer every day you live,” DeVine said. “Our souls are often the last thing on our minds. Our music, and really any good music in my opinion, should remind you that you have a soul and that it needs attention.”

This “liberation of soul” that is so deeply rooted within Downright’s music was one of the driving forces behind “Lightheaded,” the band’s newest album.

“’Lightheaded’ is a great production and the best collaborative songwriting in the band’s history,” Lewis said.

“Lightheaded,” Downright’s fourth full-length album, will be released in late spring of this year, but the band has been working on the album since summer 2011.

“’Lightheaded’ is different in that it’s something we’ve really taken our time with,” DeVine said. “Other albums we were more interested in getting them out by a certain date, which made them more urgent.”

While the band members enjoyed the recording process, they both look forward to performing their newest tracks live in front of a Tuscaloosa audience.

“I feel like [performing live] is much more forgiving [than recording]; much more give and take in the moment,” DeVine said. “Also, an audience drives you to do things you wouldn’t normally do. It’s more like a conversation.”

Wes Keith, the band’s manager, said Downright’s powerful live performances are part of what enticed him to work with the band.

“I experienced the magic groove that could take over a room and turn it inside out,” said Keith, who has been Downright’s manager since 2003.

For these two musicians, Tuscaloosa is more than just another name on a long list of tour destinations. DeVine and Lewis, both University of Alabama alumni, met in the music school here and formed Downright in 1999, the year they graduated.

“Tuscaloosa was a great environment to get the band started, always a lot of fun and an excitable crowd of enthusiastic music lovers,” Lewis said.

Not all college bands last after graduation, but 14 years later, Downright is still going strong.

“We had such a chemistry that there was never any doubt we would continue as a band,” Lewis said.

DeVine said the band’s early days writing and performing in Tuscaloosa provided Downright with a solid foundation to build on and remain an influence on Downright’s music to this day.

“There’s a lot of appreciation for the South here,” DeVine said. “When you appreciate where you are from, you can build on it. I think the south is a great region and the struggles of the last 75 years have produced some incredible music here. Embracing the region doesn’t mean condoning its problems, so Tuscaloosa was a great place to start out.”

Downright will perform at Green Bar on Friday, Feb. 1, along with opening acts Blackwater Thieves and Junior Spicy. The show starts at 10 p.m. and the cover charge is $5.

For more information on Downright, visit the band’s Facebook page or go to downrightmusic.net.

If You Go..

What: Downright (with opening acts Blackwater Theives and Junior Spicy)

Where: Green Bar, $5 cover

When: 10 p.m.

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