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Huckleberry Funk brings the beat to the Bluebird


Dexter Clardy, lead singer of Huckleberry Funk, performs with the band Wednesday night at Bluebird Nightclub. Matt Begala Buy Photos

The shuffling of speakers, stands and instruments — all moving parts of a band — could be heard from outside the alley of Bluebird Nightclub.

At 11 p.m. Wednesday night, smoke filled the standing room of the Bluebird as around 100 music fans, young and old, crowded the stage.

For an hour and a half, Huckleberry Funk controlled the crowd with their melodic, funk-driven sound. The band debuted several new songs as well as a cover of “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire. 

Before the show began, three members of Huckleberry Funk were tuning their instruments on stage. In the greenroom, Dexter Clardy, the lead singer of the band, sat in the corner listening to music quietly playing from his phone. Written in grafitti on the wall behind his head in bold sharpie read “Huck Funk." 

Huckleberry Funk first started playing at the Bluebird two years ago on Thursday nights, typically a poor night for shows in Bloomington, Clardy said. In front of crowds of 20 to 30 people, Huckleberry Funk brought the same energy they bring to the stage today. 

The only difference is now they can sometimes fill the Bluebird with over 300 people. 

Singer Dexter Clardy, left, bassist Matt McConahay, center, and guitarist Mike Gronsky, right, of Huckleberry Funk perform Wednesday night at Bluebird Nightclub.  Matt Begala Buy Photos

Huckleberry Funk hops from one genre to the next, blending soul and rock into a high-energy funk sound. 

“Funk isn’t a genre,” Clardy said. “It’s an attitude.”

Five of the six band members are IU alumni, and transcending into a regional act from a small-town party band is their short-term goal. The music industry is highly competitive and making a career out of it takes commitment, lead guitarist Mike Gronsky said. 

Recently, Huckleberry Funk have played with The Main Squeeze, another Bloomington-based band, which have played with The Roots and have collaborated with famous artist and record producer Randy Jackson. 

Huckleberry Funk has begun touring in parts of Ohio and Indianapolis, and is set to release their first studio recorded album soon. 

The band recently hired their first manager, CJ Smith, who leads their promotions and merchandising.

“What I do allows them to just focus on the music,” Smith said.

Brennan Johns plays keyboard with Huckleberry Funk on Wednesday night at Bluebird Nightclub. Matt Begala Buy Photos

Outside of booking gigs and managing the band’s social media presence, Smith serves as a creative outlet for the band while they write music. 

“I try to create opportunities for them to let out emotions,” Smith said. “It starts with small questions like ‘How are you doing at home?’ It’s all about creating a healthy dialogue.”

Having someone to manage the band was a priority for Huckleberry Funk. Brennan Johns, who plays the keyboard and horns in the band, understands there is more to a band than what happens on stage. Johns graduated from Jacobs School of Music three years ago. 

“To be a freelance musician, you also have to be a businessman,” Johns said.

With a newly hired manager, a summer tour underway and an album nearing its release date, Huckleberry Funk is ready to take the next step. 

Huckleberry Funk will play another Bloomington show August 18 at The Oliver Winery.

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