funk — noun
Origin mid-18th cent. (first recorded as slang at Oxford University in Oxford, England perhaps from funk in the slang sense (tobacco smoke) or from obsolete Flemish fonck: "disturbance, agitation."
a style of popular dance music of U.S. black origin, based on elements of blues and soul and having a strong rhythm that typically accentuates the first beat in the bar.
informal dated: a strong musty smell of sweat or tobacco.
funky — adjective
(of music) having or using a strong dance rhythm, in particular that of funk:some excellent funky beats.
modern and stylish in an unconventional or striking way:she likes wearing funky clothes.
strongly musty:cooked greens make the kitchen smell really funky.
— from New Oxford American Dictionary
The stage is set at Benbow "Lake." Actually it's still in place from last weekend's Summer Arts and Music Festival, and they're ready for what the Mateel folks describe as "the biggest and baddest celebration of funk music in Humboldt's history."
Yes, the Mateel's Sum Funk is the place to find those "excellent funky beats" as Saturday brings a big/bad all-day funk-a-thon featuring George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Fishbone, The Meters Experience, The Coup, Electrofunkadelica and The Kim Manning Band.
Top of the bill is George Clinton, founding father of Parliament Funkadelic, who brought the P-Funk experience to the Mateel in February for a sold-out show. Going on 67, Clinton sports a gray beard and a rainbow wig hiding what must be gray locks, but at the Mateel he was funky as ever, leading a crowded stage full of P-Funkateers who funked things up into the wee hours.
For Clinton funk is an attitude. "You funk it, hang loose," he told me when we spoke before his last SoHum show. "It's the Force. You do the best you can, take some blues and start jammin' — that's funk music. You don't blow your mind about it, you just do the best you can."
Embodying next generation funkadelic is Fishbone, a madcap band out of South Central L.A. led by Angelo "Dr. Madd Vibe" Moore, who mix strains of funky ska, metal and balls-out rock, adding oddball touches like the occasional theremin solo. Then you have Boots RileyandThe Coup, a sharply political hip hop ensemble out of Oakland. Leo Nocentelli is synonymous with scratchy New Orleans guitar; he leads The Meters Experience, basically his renegade take on the Meters back catalog with rotating side men. Opening the show (before noon) is P-Funk offshoot The Kim Manning Band, who also opened the recent Mateel P-Funk party. Stand-up comics Gabriel Rutledge and Richie Stratton provide laughs in between sets. (They also perform at the Blue Lake Casino's Sapphire Palace Friday night.) And, just added, a bonus: The ever-so-funky keyboard king Bernie Worrell, a P-Funk stalwart who came to town with Eric McFadden, will be around all day for cameos with various groups.
A few weeks back while I was shopping at the Art Center on a Farmer's Market Saturday, one of the clerks pulled me aside. Apparently she's on the mailing list for The Wilders, a neo-old timey honky tonk band from Kansas City. She raved about them, told me I should not miss their show when they play Humboldt Brews Sunday, June 8. Since then a copy of the band's latest disc Someone's Got To Play showed up in my mailbox. It's an amazing piece of work, mostly original songs full of energetic Americana. It's also one of those "concept" albums in that it includes an overriding story. Wilders multi-instrumentalist Phil Wade, who plays dobro, mando, guitar and lap steel, wrote a sequence of songs collectively titled "Sitting on a Jury" after doing just that in a trial for a young man who'd shot his ex-wife. "It was an old murder ballad come to life," he writes in the liner notes. It's emblematic of what this band does, taking old forms and bringing them into the present, something they do with panache.
Blue Lake folks are "Playing in the Park" out in Perigot Park Saturday, June 7, starting at noon with Skunked, then moving through Curtis and Julie from Kulica, Jaese Lecuyer from the Arcata Interfaith Gospel Choir, KRFH Battle of the Bands winners Svelte Velvet, raconteur Jeff DeMark, Logger faves The Brendas, The Mad River Madams (whoever that might be) and concluding with the irrepressible Rubberneckers (now ex-Blue Lake residents), who allegedly take the stage at 5. In addition you have a bocce ball tournament, food, a petting zoo, a raffle and auctions all to benefit evicted residents of the Aiy-yu-Kwee Mobile Home Park in Blue Lake.
Later on Saturday, elsewhere in Blue Lake (not far from that mobile home park), NightHawk celebrates completion of their new CD, Heart of the Night. The six-piece band drawing members from SoHum and NoHum is not easy to pigeonhole. Most of the members are of the boomer gen, and there's a definite classic feel to their rock, with tight multi-part harmonies reminiscent of bands like It's a Beautiful Day on songs like guitarist Steve Dellay's "Mainstream." While Steve throws in the occasional ripping guitar solo and power chord, it's not really classic rock — it's much more contemporary. (Neo-classical?) And we're definitely not talking cover band. The songs on the album are all original and reflect the personalities of the various members. Delay and keyboardist Mike Fredericks pull in Caribbean beats and a steel drum sound on "Come Across." Vocalist Marcia Mendels pens the title track and "Run to Me," another examination of modern romance. Drummer Don Banducci gets a bit silly with "Hot Dates From Space," a UFO tale co-written with D. Flatmo. Dellay's closer, "In My America," takes things in a political direction, questioning the actions of the current administration where "young people are dying for old men's lack of vision." Powerful stuff. The CD release party is at the Wave in the Blue Lake Casino.
Also on Saturday, in another town (maybe another universe), self-described "Rock Gods of Humboldt County" Machete celebrate the release of their new South Spit Records CD, Dirty Piggy, at the Red Fox with like-minded metallic guests Dragged By Horses and The Fire Demons.
Macbeth wondered, "Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible to feeling as to sight? Or art thou but a dagger of the mind, a false creation, proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?" For the answer, ask The Metal Shakespeare Co. (formerly known as Dagger of the Mind), who play Saturday at the Alibi. Who or what art that? Another band from Portland, who explaineth themselves most succinctly on their MySpace saying, "We sing scenes from Shakespeare plays over heavy metal." When they visited in January, local instru-metal band 33 1/3 opened. So shall it be again.
On the underground hip hop tip you have a That's How We Roll show at the Red Fox Sunday featuring 2Mex from The Visionaries, on the road with fellow L.A. residents Ivan Ives and D. Twyce, plus Humboldt homegrown hip hop by Subliminal Sabotage and DJ Touch.
This week's second Portland import is Purple Rhinestone Eagle, an all-girl neo-psyche-rock power trio playing Monday at the Li'l Red Lion with opening actLord's Burning Rain.
Tuesday at the Li'l Red Lion it's the return of Fresno's hottest one-man-band, Brian Kenney Fresno, master of the Warr guitar. BKF sings song about life in Fresno and thereabouts, song about weed, and at least one song about the instrument he plays. The Warr guitar, an evolved version of the Chapman Stick handmade by Mark Warr, is a wide-necked futuristic monster played by tapping the strings. In the capable hands of someone like B.K. Fresno, it sounds awesome, like a whole band.
More alt. at the Li'l Red Lion Wednesday: loud locals The Zygoats and The Fire Demons, plus punk metal band Top Dead Celebrity from Salt Lake City, who note on their MySpace re: their influences, "They are mostly German ... like Kraftwerk? Falco? Hasslehoff?" So I guess their sound is somewhat akin to Sonic Death Monkey.
Which reminds me of the back porch rumor I heard at Saturday's cool/hot Howlin' Rain show: that The Works Arcata outlet will be closing when the lease runs out later this year. Not true. "We're still hanging on," says Works vet Bandon. In part they're hanging in there because of the revived interest in vinyl, and those still dedicated to what Bandon deems "the artifact."
Meanwhile, that same Wednesday at the Alibi, another Bad Kitty psychobilly thing, this time featuring Frenzy, a kick-ass trio from Bristol, UK who've been at it for 25 years (although not necessarily with the same line-up). Touring with them up and down the coast: Henchmen, a like-minded trio from Whittier.
This Saturday is also Arts Alive! —something I won't miss this month, since I'm part of it, at least on a small scale. Forgive the self-serving plug, but one of my snaps was accepted for the Humboldt Arts Council's annual Northwest Eyephoto contest (at the Graves). Of course, as usual there's plenty more going on for the arts walk, including music all over the place. Humboldt Bay Keeper has the Sari Baker Trio; Chico's swingin' puppeteers, Hibbity Skibbity, are at Ramone's; and Spudgun is at Old Town Coffee. The Alternative Building Center, a source for "green" eco-friendly materials for building and remodeling, celebrates its first anniversary Saturday with an afternoon-into-Arts Alive! party (ABC is at 4 and A sts. down by the Co-op) with music by UKEsperience and Absynth Quintet, broadcast live (in part) on KHUM. The station will also have someone down by the Gazebo where the steel drummers of Pan Dulce will be banging their pans, so I suppose you could experience all of this vicariously over the airwaves. That said, I advise being there. And if you can't be there, be here, now.