all words: Jeb Gavin
all photos: Blink OfAnEye
Back in 1999 I had my mind blown by the king of interplanetary funk at the 9:30 Club, just like this past Tuesday night. Like all young, elitist, East coast, alternative, intellectual, left wing- OK, this is taking forever, let’s just say Jewish teenagers (hat tip to 30 Rock), I learned of George Clinton and the Parliament-Funkadelic All Stars from the film PCU.
Once we found out he played DC twice a year, often at the 9:30 Club, we resolved to see him live as often as possible. Back then, the band played for hours on end, closing down the club. In the intervening years, shows got shorter, other people stepped up to take on vocal responsibilities (including Clinton’s various rapping grandchildren), and frankly, the act suffered. Not last night, though.
Gone were the multi-colored dreads of old. Clinton came out in a suit and hat, fresher than I’d seen him in years, and proceeded to lead the band through a two and a half hour set of insane funk. This is ageless party music, as evidenced by teenagers standing shoulder to shoulder with their parents. And their grandparents. And a dude wearing a giant, mascot-like skull smoking an oversized jay. And an old, black guy in a commodore hat and kilt blowing a whistle. This was pretty tame, all things considered.
This show took me back to the good old days, or at least the ones that I remember. 40 minute uninterrupted jams, moving effortlessly from song to song; a clown car of backup dancers and singers; rotating sets of guitarists and two different sets of keys for each of the two keyboardists; and a two men on horns which made more noise than your average philharmonic brass section. An hour in, I was impressed. By the time they started playing “Maggot Brain”, I was ecstatic. Somewhere along the line, Clinton slipped into some dashiki-like robes and broke into “Aqua Boogie”, and the crowd, well, if it could’ve gotten crazier, it would have.
The night wasn’t without its slow moments. The uninitiated weren’t keen on the seven minutes of looped feedback that is “Maggot Brain”, and a more than a few were bored by the 10 minutes the trumpeter spent scatting in the middle of “Not Just Knee Deep”. But the kids kept the rapping to a minimum, and the party kept rolling right along. If this is the kind of effort P-Funk is going to bring in the future, I might start regularly attending their shows again.