Out of the garage

Jaime Linares' co-workers have been pestering him for an invitation to "Club Kukumunga" — his nickname for the room off his garage where his band, Infusion, practices.

Truth be told, there's not much extra space once you fill it with five musicians, drums, guitars, amps, etc.

But friends and fans can catch Infusion on one of Old Town's premier patios this weekend when the band performs at Mort's Cigar Bar. Infusion has made the leap from garage to some of the city's better venues by blending R&B, funk, soul and more into a danceable mix.

The band's name is a pretty good clue to its approach on songs like "Sunday Morning." Sure, it's the same tune made into a hit by Maroon 5, but Dennis Balderes adds a conga part to the drum line, and Krystal Iseminger handles the vocals originally sung by a man.

Then near the end, the band segues into the Bob Marley reggae classic "Three Little Birds."

Bassist Steve Sifuentez sums up the band's approach this way: "If you're going to do covers, do it better than the original."

Infusion was formed almost five years ago out of a regular blues open jam hosted by guitarist Linares. For a while the band's focus was blues, but Linares said gigging possibilities are limited for that genre. Most clubs want bands playing "danceable" music, so Linares staring experimenting with different lineups in an attempt to provide it.

Sifuentez and Balderes had been playing in area bands since the '70s, performing everything from funk and rock to jazz and Mexican-flavored music. Keyboardist Dave Probst, who's moving on to other musical territory after this weekend, was similarly experienced.

Iseminger, on the other hand, had never performed with a group.

"They found me in an open mike night jamming with a friend," she said. "I've seen myself grow so much on stage, not to mention the musical diversity I've learned from these guys."

The drummer, Alex Linares, is Jaime's son.

Last year, Infusion won the Corporate Battle of the Bands during the Wichita River Festival, representing Learjet, where Linares works.

"That confirmed my suspicion that we were pretty good," he said.

They got even more confident after filling in for Lotus, which has turned its weekly gigs at Margarita's into a Wichita institution.

"That's a hard one," Linares said. "People go there to hear Lotus. They're going to give you about two minutes before they decide if they're staying."

This summer, they've tackled Old Town, with gigs at the Brickyard and the Pumphouse in addition to Mort's. This weekend, they'll add what Linares calls a professional light system, part of their bid to get better-paying private gigs.

"There are a lot of variety bands out there," Linares said. "Infusion is more of the R&B and funk and soul niche, if you will. Plus, we sprinkle in some rock, Latin rhythm and top 40 as well."

Expect to hear songs like Earth, Wind & Fire's "Let's Groove," Santana's "Game of Love" and Outkast's "Hey Ya."

But not exactly the same way you've heard them before.

"It's like me rapping Outkast," Iseminger said. "Every time we play, people come up and say they've never heard a song done like that before."

If you go


What: Wichita band playing a mix of R&B, funk and soul

Where: Mort's Cigar Bar, 923 E. First St.

When: 9 p.m. today and Saturday

How much: No cover.