Live music June 7 at Benbow.
George Clinton danced by the Eel River in a peacock headdress, pink and yellow mini-braids, and a checkered brown baller jacket down to his knees. The crowd sang out, "We want the funk! Gotta have the funk!" and bounced together in the same collective energy. Little girls danced on the front of the stage in front of Parliament Funkadelic's trumpet and electric bass players. Dense clouds of something very funky-smelling wafted through the night air. The beer drinkers got drunk and watched from behind a barrier 30 feet away.
Sum Funk. The holy funkiness happened at Benbow all day Saturday. The weekend before, the Summer Arts and Music Festival took place at the exact same spot. A "Mateel Community Center" banner still hung high above the stage. The weather forecast predicted 70-something and cloudy, but it was 80-something and sunny. Happy smiling people lounged on blankets and portable lawn chairs together as they commenced on the grass. Blunts and bowls blazed all around.
Nothing all that mind-blowing happened before 2 p.m., except one of the "funky" comedians performed. He sucked and was booed by haters. It wasn't the alcohol though — the beer and wine drinkers were condemned to their own special fenced-off area away from the front of the stage. A new rule at Benbow requires festivals to keep alcohol contained, so all the drunkards watched the show in a cage together while everyone more sober sat in lawn chairs slightly more uphill and closer to the stage.
The music. The funk was all day, and each band had its own unique eclectic sound. Around mid-day, The Coup performed. The urban, modern-day ensemble from Oakland offers socially conscious hip-hop mixed with the jazziness of tooting trumpets. Then there was Fishbone with classic ska and punk-flavored funk. They made a less than grand entrance. Lead singer Angelo Moore, dressed in a black and white prison outfit, free-flowed spoken word without background music for the first 20 minutes of the set. But once the rest of the band arrived, and ska-funk-reggae sound erupted from horns and electrified strings, all mishaps were immediately forgiven.
As the day wore on and the blazing sun set over the river and redwood trees, the '70s superstars known as Parliament Funkadelic hit the stage. P-Funk had an entourage of about 30 musicians from all walks of life. One of the singers performed the whole show in just a terry cloth white towel worn like a diaper and a P-Funk varsity jacket. He told the crowd to party like it was 1979. But they were doing that already.
Parliament plus Funkadelic played a few first songs without their main man, George Clinton, with ease, soul and classic perfection. Ten minutes into the official funkiness, George made his first appearance. Sauntering on stage without singing or saying a thing, he dictated the crowd with sheer presence, bouncing his hand up and down in the bombastic rhythm, commanding the crowd to bounce. Everyone bounced. He waved his arms from side to side. Everyone waved. George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic belted out two hours of non-stop jams with 15-minute-long breakdowns and funky solos. Then, the clock struck 10 and the music stopped suddenly. Everyone had to leave. There was no funk remaining — except the eerie silence of Benbow under the stars.