George Clinton and P-Funk, Starland Ballroom, Sayreville, NJ- 3/11
Saturday March 11th at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ can be described in one word. Mayhem. I’d never seen the P-Funk before, so I didn’t know what to expect
The night started off a little rocky with the opening act Children of Production, some of whom later appeared P-Funk. They started off as a trippy / funk/ hip-hop mesh with two girls rapping /singing. The audience got into it at first, but after a few songs, lost interest. It was like the first time you hear some MTV-ish, commercial tune for the first time. You bob your head initially, but by the third chorus, you want to turn it off. As for me, I felt the same but a bit sooner. Still, the third song did offer the best noise of the set: an amazing solo from the keyboard player, which had soul, depth and emotion. On their last tune a guest joined them, Michael Hampton from the Funkadelic, and as they played their song and said good-bye, Hampton continued, and continued to play. He was still soloing with this sloppy distortion, well after the band was off the stage, as if this were soundcheck (and perhaps it was).
Shortly afterwards, the lights went down, curtains went up and there they were. Garry Shider (guitar/vocals/blue diaper) said “Hello and how are you?” That’s all, no bullshit. After a good 3 or 4 minutes, the man comes out, George Clinton (he still has his funky-dreadlocked-knit cap on his head- right on George!) I could not have predicted what happened next, as he grabbed the mike and started quoting the Lil’ Jon song; “To the window, to the wall, till the sweat drips from my balls. Skeet! Skeet! Skeet!” I think everyone there in unison went, “ Oooh, shit!” and cut the rug right from there. This went straight into “Give Up the Funk” with a tease of “Whole Lotta Shakin Goin Down” towards the end before they dropped it down and kicked it into full swing with the rest of the song. The set included “Atomic Dawg,” “Mothership Connection,” “Something Stinks” and “I Want Some” and “Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow” (among others).
What made their jams so fun and interesting, is that they weren’t too airy. They didn’t take a long time to build up, they were right in your face, and in the pocket. George would be right there saying, “Yeah, keep that bass goin, take it down or don’t change nothin’ keep going” This showed me first hand why Dr. Funkenstein (GC) is down as “Vocals/ Referee.” He was more like a conductor at times rather than a lead singer. The music was relentless. I could see people getting tired of dancing but the groove wouldn’t let them! Although there was some down time, in between “Somethin Stinks” and “Free Your Mind,” when George had them lay out a bit, but even then he kept the bass right where it was. The room was defiantly bouncing and I felt my pen and pad vibrate in my hands.
Other than the music, their stage presence could be felt a mile away. Band members came and went at random points, sixteen in all, seemingly coming, going and playing as they pleased. George Clinton’s granddaughter, Sativa (yes, like the plant) was on and off the stage all night. The horn players were absolutely dynamite. They were trading solos, dueling back and forth, and the sax player could beatbox too.
At the end of the night Kendra Foster (touring w/ P-Funk since 01) sang “Sexy Side of You” off their new album. After play on words with the crowd on “Sexy Side,” the Doctor left the stage. The band kicked it into over drive and the room was just bouncing. George came out to say good-bye and that was all she wrote. This experience with the Parliament Funkadelic was total chaos, a traveling circus filled with funk and blue diapers. And when the circus comes to your town, you best be there