Funk Cowboy hits Wolf Den

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— Rock operas. What a great idea. Why keep what you have to say down to a three-minute single when you can spread it out over the length of a theatrical production?

Since The Who's "Tommy," everyone from Yes to King Crimson has taken a crack telling a story over the course of an entire album.

Now it's local musician Todd Leestma's turn.

This is his third CD as the Intergalactic Funk Cowboy.

"My last two CDs weren't as good as this one," he said. "They were basically me, a keyboard and a drum machine."

Now, it's three keyboards, a drum machine and an 8-track.

All his equipment is arranged in a makeshift studio in one corner of his bedroom. Besides his single mattress thrown on the floor, the rest of the room is dedicated to music. A picture of Frank Zappa is taped to the wall above his stereo and extensive CD collection James Brown, The Commodores, Prince.

He does most of his work on a top-of-the-line Korg Triton programmable digital keyboard.

Leestma is a big fan of late-'70s music and in his keyboard heavy "funk opera," it shows.

The music is heavily influenced by The Who and Zappa's "Joe's Garage" album.

Leestma started recording his funk opera in August of last year. He cut the final track in May. The story follows the hero, the funk cowboy. Funk music and dancing are outlawed on Earth after an alien invasion from the monoculture planet of Unfunk. The cowboy becomes a criminal and is sentenced to death.

"It's easier to keep everyone the same, without music," Leestma said.

Fortunately, the hero "outfunks" the enemy and prevails all the way to a secret track of keyboards, effects and drum samples.

"He comes back with the funkiest song ever played," he said.

The funk opera will be performed in its entirety at the Wolf Den Tavern Saturday at Leestma's CD release party.

Leestma will be joined on stage by the bass and guitar players from Steamboat band Perfectly Frank.

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