March 7, 2002

The Clinton that Did Inhale

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Last Thursday night, over 500 people gathered for a sold-out funk festival at the Haunt, put on by Parliament-Funkadelic off-shoots DRUGS, Kidd Funkadelic, and 420 FM with special guest George Clinton. Throughout the night, concert-goers packed shoulder to shoulder and shook the small, hot, upstate-backward space of the Haunt as they got down to each of the three conglomerate bands’ slightly different take on the classic P-Funk style. The mighty father of all Funkadelia, George Clinton, presided over the celebrations and performed with the headlining act, 420 FM. Although Clinton’s electric and legendary stage presence was the high point of the concert, DRUGS and Kidd Funkadelic played their individual blends of earthy jam-rock, also inciting a fury of dance from the audience. From about 9:30 until past 2:00 in the morning, the three bands played glorious funk, which inspired a tremendous amount of energy from the audience. However, the bands ultimately fell just short of the Parliament-Funkadelic benchmark.

Taking the stage first, DRUGS set a high standard of funkability for the other two bands to follow. After a few minutes of asking the house DJ to turn down the lights and the background music, DRUGS began their set with their personal introductions and a gradually building jam that led into the boisterous groove of the song “Deep Down in the Dumps,” from their only album, The Prescription for Mis-America ( DRUGS consists of three P-Funk members — Clip Payne (vocals), Lige Curry (bass), and the often diaper-clad Gary “Star Child” Shider (rhythm guitar) — and four Woodstock musicians — Adam Widoff (lead guitar), Robert “Chicken” Burke (drums), and Jeremy Bernstein (guitar). To top it off, the Philadelphia-born Stephanie McKay provided her proud, sweet voice as the hook on most the songs. From the mellow lows of sweet funk jams, such as “Strung Out,” to the excited highs of boastful funk-rock (“Never Ever”), this mix of Parliament-Funkadelic members and upstate New York talent played with great cohesion and skill. As DRUGS left the stage, the sweating guy with the eccentric dance behind me exclaimed, “Man, if that’s just the opening band, I can’t wait to hear the rest!”

Next, Kidd Funkadelic took the stage. A three-man ensemble, they fused metal and funk in a rock-out performance. Michael Hampton, a.k.a. Kidd Funkadelic, played blazing guitar riffs in his personal amalgam of psychedelic, Hendrix-influenced rock and the early, heavy funk of Funkadelic. Gabe Gonzalez (drums) and Eli Ward (bass) joined Hampton in funk-metal jams, including “Maggot Brain” and a compelling cover of Hendrix’s “Machine Gun.” While Ward played bass and sang into a Frampton-like voice modifier, and Gonzalez aggressively beat hard-rock rhythms, Hampton shook his long, braided hair in time with his guitar solos. Although Kidd Funkadelic funked hard, they did not play for long, and 420FM with George Clinton would take the stage soon.

As a small mob of musicians and roadies prepared for the performance of 420 FM, the audience eagerly awaited George Clinton’s appearance. Minutes later, 420 FM ran onstage to begin their first song “Nuthin’ Before Me But Thang.” As a massive group, including members of DRUGS and Kidd Funkadelic, 420 FM quickly created a deeply woven fabric of funk layers. Clip Payne (the MC/vocalist) explained that “this [420] is the off-days from touring with Parliament-Funkadelic, these days are the days we play with out friends.” The band is fleshed out by Lige Curry, Kidd Funkadelic, Gabe Gonzalez, Amp Fiddler (keyboard), and Gary Shiderjust, to name a few. Just when 420 settled into their first groove, George Clinton emerged onstage with an overwhelming, ecstatic explosion from the audience.

Clinton, surrounded in his aura of pure, unadulterated funk, held the audience in the palm of his hand through call and response jams, P-Funk cheers, and ridiculous dances. The concert-goers went wild to Clinton’s voice and constant gestures, as 420 funked through the ages of Parliament-Funkadelic songs. Singing along with George Clinton and Clip Payne, through the choruses of “Dr. Funkenstein,” “Swing Down Sweet Chariot,” and “P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up),” the audience poured out their energy to the 420 grooves. George Clinton walked hurriedly about the stage, encouraging the 420 performers and the audience alike with his cheers of “Shit! God Damn! Get off your ass and Jam!” and “If you ain’t gonna get it on, take your dead ass home!” Stepping off-stage for a soulful, 420 song, George soon returned, wearing a purplish blue robe to sing a virtual encore of an all-out bluesy funk epic. Clinton had captivated the hearts of the entire audience with his every move.

Clinton and 420 FM played glorious funk that brought the audience into frenzied dance late into night. Although the 420, Kidd Funkadelic, and DRUGS were a bit too loose — not as tight as the full assemblage of Parliament-Funkadelic — all of these bands skillfully brought the audience into an all-consuming orgy of funk.

Archived article by Andrew Gilman