“Incongruous” is the only way to describe this night. First of all, UNH is perhaps the whitest venue in the whitest state in the union. Furthermore, the Godfather of Funk shared a bill with…The Samples? A quirky jam band more popular in Colorado than in all of the territory east of the Mississippi? Makes me wonder who was in charge of booking. It was out of place as the Jonas Brothers opening for Ice-T.
A buddy called me up and wanted to take me along to gets us a little funk education. He didn’t know much of George Clinton beyond “Atomic Dog” and the funny hair. En route, his schooling involved mostly learning the chants (“Make my funk the P-Funk, I want my funk uncut/Make my funk the P-Funk, I wants to get funked up”) and yelling them at the top of our lungs in the cah on the way to the cohn-suht.
He later got busted carrying a switchblade into the gig (are you kidding me?) but, since New Hampshire is close to Canada–the land of Rocky & Bullwinkle and the home of the nice–the pleasant security officers checked it at the door and let him have it back on the way out.
The show was worth at least twice the $15 general-admission cover, and that’s counting having to endure the Samples, which to my ears sounded like one long droning synth chord and cute harmonies sustained for oh, about four hours. In reality it was probably just a little shy of a two-hour set, but I’ve endured a lot of jam-band shows and these guys had to have been the worst, ever. Look up “stultifying” in the dictionary, and The Samples picture will be there. This band was such a peculiar opening act for the P-Funk All-Stars–they had no funk whatsoever, unlike the area jammers from the area like Lettuce and Jiggle The Handle, whose grooves could make us shake all the junk in our trunks.
Basically, while there were probably more than a few UNH students who knew what they were doing and some actual adults in the crowd who understood the whole funkifications of George Clinton and his branch of the rock family tree with Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell, it felt like this crowd had no idea what was about to transpire when the house lights dimmed and Dr. Funkenstein came out to throw down an absolutely magnificent set. Few of the guys behind Clinton were recognizeable, but according to Wikipedia, Kidd Funkadelic and Billy Bass would have been in the house. Both of them—and Clinton—made the Rock Hall in 1997, for what it’s worth.
Didn’t matter that it was Clinton sans Bootsy and Bernie, and it also didn’t matter that three decades of hard living had put some miles on Clinton’s odometer. The band ripped through the greatest hits, led the crowd through all the singalong choruses, and shook the fieldhouse’s foundation with bass notes that probably rattled The Samples’ tour bus—and showed them what a real groovin’ jam entails. Clinton was all over the stage, reminiscent of a gospel preacher, and although he was 54 years old at the time, he hit all the notes and literally controlled the audience with his hands, waving, gesticulating, commanding us to free our minds.
The Samples fans who’d stayed–I would guess at least a third of the crowd had left, taking their lighters and light sticks (ugh) with them–took a while to get into Funkenstein’s vibe, but that’s what George Clinton’s all about: Being an evangelist for the funk. A one-of-a-kind experience I’d recommend for anyone who appreciates music, whether they’re enlightened in the ways of the P-Funk…or not.