Wednesday, July 11, 2007

George Clinton still knows how to tear the roof off

Bluesfest last night was a far more pleasant experience than the night of Bob Dylan. Perhaps fewer people know who George Clinton is, but the crowd had to be a third of the size. Which meant that it was very easy to get close enough to both see AND hear at the same time! The band on the main stage first was called MOe, and although I had heard OF them, I had never heard them play. What a terrific band! Very Grateful Dead in that they are a quality jam band, and very Frank-Zappa sounding funk grooves. The type of band that may be best appreciated live, because there's no guarantee that a sound like that can carry over onto CD. I ran into Trevor Finlay, who is playing Bluesfest tomorrow night and Saturday. (Tomorrow is a must-see - if you're there for Steve Miller, show up at 6:00 for Guitar Explosion - it's Trevor, Paul Deslauriers and another guy from Montreal who once opened for the Stones - it'll be fantastic) Then Randy Newman played...I was really pulling for him to play "left foot right foot" from Family Guy...but Trevor pointed out to me that he would likely have to pay royalties to Seth MacFarlane were he to do so - after all, he didn't write the song himself.

Randy Newman is funny. Terrific songwriter, I'm not so sure about his stage presence. He tried to get the crowd involved at one point, but rather that the "When I say Jump, you say How High" sort of simple instructions one normally hears from a band or a singer, his instructions required a substantial music background, it seemed. OK, I want you to scream "he's dead". But be careful, because this song is written in 7/8 time, and I need you all to come in on the downbeat. Also, it is in E flat minor, which is a sad key, so I need to feel that sadness coming from you...what? Probably nine people in the audience knew what the hell he was talking about. "This song is going to go at an andante pace, so it should be easier for you to keep up...but the tone is maestoso, so sound majestic..." So no one sang along. Frankly, they couldn't if they wanted to. But entertaining nonetheless.

Then George Clinton. Actually, no. It was his P-Funk All-stars first. And what a band! Just phenomenal. There was a guy in a diaper who looked to be fronting the band, but at the same time, it was virtually impossible to distinguish which of the bizarrely-dressed individuals was leading. Is it the diaper man? The 1970s pimp? The guy with dreadlocks and a deep voice? Frankly, I don't think anyone was leading that group. They were just one big collective of awesome. Bluesfest has this new feature which is absolutely obnoxious, and that is that now people have the ability to send text messages to the big screen beside the stage. At fifty cents each, there were probably six people in the crowd who dropped 100 bucks on text messages at George Clinton alone. And what stupid messages! "I like funk..." is it really worth 50 cents to you to have that appear on a screen somewhere? And then you text seventy-two variations on the same theme up there, which is now costing you 36 bucks, yet you still have not said anything. I don't get it. LOL.

The one thing I gleaned from the text message scroll was that most of the people in the crowd had no real knowledge of the George Clinton Parliament-Funkadelic empire. For the first 40 minutes of the show, they were convinced the guy in the diaper was Clinton. Of course, he wasn't, but when Clinton himself hit the stage 40 minutes into the show, he was greeted with a fairly embarrassing smattering of applause. Maybe eleven people knew that it was actually him this time. But it should have been thunderous applause, because the entrance was incredible. Very low-key, he walks in off the side of the stage with a microphone, bright pink hair and a boxer's robe, as the band kicks into the groove from Frank Zappa's I Am The Slime...then as Clinton hits center stage they kick into Give Up The Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker), and the crowd goes...placid. Well, not everyone can be a giant Clinton fan, but anyone who was standing within range of him last night had to get up and move. They may not know his music well, they may not own Chocolate City or The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein, but they know great tunes when they here them. And George Clinton knows how to deliver 'em. Next to the Allman Brothers a few years ago, this was the best Bluesfest show I've seen. George Clinton tore the roof off that mothersucker. And I freed my mind. My ass followed.


  1. Dancing and Groovin to Geaorge Clinton was great; then close to the end I looked at him and thought about what Randy Newman said about aging musicians, "He's dead, he's dead." So I took his advice and left to catch a bit of Los Lobos. When I got to the River Stage I couldn't commit and felt drawn back to the P-funkedelia. What a great show. Fuck Randy Newman. (he was funny though)

  2. He WAS funny...I didn't catch Los Lobos, but I believe they are almost as old as Clinton!