Tim Palmieri knows a thing or two about getting a crowd dancing. His band the Breakfast (formerly Psychedelic Breakfast) has been a fixture in the jam circuit since 1998, and his 15 years of experience and connections have come in quite handy with his newer group, Kung Fu. Chris DeAngelis (bass) and Adrian Tramontano (drums/percussion) of the Breakfast are also on board with Kung Fu, along with tenor saxophonist Robert Somerville (also of Deep Banana Blackout) and keyboardist Todd Stoops (of RAQ). The band plays a unique brand of new-funk and fusion, mixed with some newer EDM-influenced sounds and ideas. Though it's still a relatively new band, it's packed with music-scene veterans, and they're not wasting any time or energy this time around.
"Because we're seasoned from touring, we're not just looking to go out and beat ourselves up," says Palmieri. "Everything is carefully planned. Everyone's got families and kids and there's a few more kids on the way, so we've got to be selective about where we go. We're being careful — letting things come to us, letting opportunities develop."
In January the band will appear at Jungle Jam in Costa Rica. Next summer's festival spots can't be announced yet, but there will be several big gigs. Kung Fu is based in New Haven, but they don't play there very often. Except around Christmastime. For the third year in a row, they'll be hosting a Toys for Tots Holiday Show at Toad's Place along with the Stepkids, Twiddle and Norrin, this Saturday. Fans who bring a new, unwrapped toy or coat get $10 off admission.
"With all the traveling we do all year it's nice to just bring it home at the end of the year and recap it with our friends and families," says Palmieri. "I've grown up with most of the guys in the Stepkids, and lived with them for a little bit so they're like family, so it's great to have them on. Twiddle, we've been doing a bunch of shows with as well. It's nice, we're just going to be surrounded by friendly musicians."
When Kung Fu began, there were no expectations. It was all about just having fun with the music and doing something positive. They'd play funk-fusion covers every Monday night, and the feedback was so overwhelming that they felt compelled to write some original songs and take it to the next level.
"This lineup now has been at it for two years, so this is pretty much where we're at," says Palmierei. "The chemistry is right. We're writing a new album that will be out the beginning of next year. 2014 should be really good."
While Kung Fu can be considered a jam band, the improvisation is mapped out and contained a bit, with more structure than many other jammy projects.
"Everything is concise," says Palmieri. "Sometimes jam bands could really go off into lala land, which I've done and I still do with other bands, but not this one. With this one you've got like three minutes to solo. You've got to tell your story in three-tofour minutes instead of nine-to-ten minutes. It's funky, it's fast and it's furious."
Kung Fu plays Toad's Place on Sat., Dec. 21 at 8 p.m. 300 York St., New Haven. Tickets: $15-$20. ($10 off with a new, unwrapped toy or coat.) Call (203) 624-8623 or visit toadsplace.com