One of the last surviving members of the Triumvirate of American Funk Godfathers, George Clinton, brought an army of Funk-inspired musicians to the new YouTube Theater in Inglewood, California. Along with James Brown and Sly Stone, the 82-year-old Clinton is considered one of the founders of the Funk music genre. The concert was the final lap of the One Nation Under a Groove Tour, billed as George Clinton and P Funk’s farewell tour. The tour moniker comes from P-Funks’s album of that same name, released in 1978.
The marathon concert featured four opening acts and dozens of performers in the current P Funk band. In addition, the new venue offered nothing less than the most spectacular sound system in the Los Angeles basin. An engineering marvel, YouTube Theater is a 6,000-seat music and theater venue in Inglewood, California. It is located under the same structure that houses SoFi Stadium and is part of the Hollywood Park entertainment complex. The three-story venue combines state-of-the-art technology with luxury guest amenities and features a premium sound system by L-Acoustics.
Jam music started early on August 17th with an opening set by the Boston-based Jam band Dopapod. The band of accomplished musicians wasted no time launching into a robust set of music mixing jazz, Funk, metal, and Americana genres into a pleasing blend. The current lineup included keyboardist/vocalist Eli Winderman, guitarist/vocalist Rob Compa, bassist Chuck Jones and drummer Neal “Fro” Evans. Sadly, most of the audience, most likely stuck in rush hour traffic, missed the band's short but compelling set.
As music fans trickled into the majestic theater after a short intermission, the second band of the night, The Motet, strolled onto the stage. The Denver-based collective, which includes former members of the band Turkuaz, also mixes Funk in their music in keeping with the theme of the night. However, Motet performs a more traditional mix of Jazz, Funk, and Soul music, emphasizing vocals from several group members. The band produced a blend of 70’s soul, experimental jams, and funky rhythms. The band is a chameleon of sounds with evolving members. On this night, singer Shira Elias fronted longtime band members drummer and bandleader Dave Watts, guitarist Ryan Jalbert, bassist Garrett Sayers, keyboardist Joey Porter, and saxophonist Drew Sayers. The group bounced in and out of soul, R&B, and funky grooves that had the growing crowd on their feet to dance to the hypnotic rhythms.
Another intermission followed, and the theater began to fill as the third act of the night prepared to take the stage. The Rolling Stone's go-to saxophone player, Karl Denson, led his band Tiny Universe in an inspiring set next. Denson fronted the group in a drenched jazz jam with funky overtones. The veteran members of KDTU include Denson (saxophone, flute), Chris Stillwell (bass), Chris Littlefield (trumpet), D. J. Williams (guitar), David Veith (keyboards), Alan Evans (drums), and Seth Freeman (guitar/lap steel.) The band played an engaging seven-song set capped by Denson’s intense solos on flute and saxophone, showcasing the 65-year-old’s immense talents.
After yet another intermission, the music took a decidedly different turn, all be it a funk-drenched one. The New York-based Blu Eye Extinction is a funky fusion band of Hip Hop, Rap, and guitar-driven Rock. The group was formed by core members of the band formerly known as Miss Velvet and The Blue Wolf. The band launched into an explosive performance encouraging the crowd in the cavernous theater to get up and dance. The music shifted in both style and volume from the earlier acts. The New York fusion ensemble featured James Jones (bass), Constance Hauman (keys), TJ Robinson (trombone/percussion), JS Williams (trumpet), Henry Ott (guitar), and Joshua Keitt (drums) as the core band. They were joined by a pair of rappers who kept bringing new energy to the venue. The short set ended with a triumphant appearance by Clinton to help whip the crowd into a frenzy for the band's final tune.
When Clinton and P Funk prepared to take the stage, the crowd's anticipation in the lofty venue had reached a crescendo of excitement. As the massive entourage that makes up the current P Funk began to file onto the stage slowly, a large portion of the crowd leaped to their feet for a dance frenzy upon hearing the opening notes of “Get Off Your Ass and Jam.” Surprisingly the octogenarian Clinton pranced onto the stage almost immediately as the band began the tune. The beaming band leader led the chant that infected the audience with dance fever. The massive troupe of singers, dancers, and musicians that makes up the current P Funk numbered in the dozens and featured three generations of extended family members. When the group got inducted into the Rock N’ Roll of Fame, a total of sixteen members were inducted, including legendary original members Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrel.
The YouTube show featured no less than four bass players laying down the Funk, multiple guitars, keyboard players, drummers, a horn section, and an ever-evolving troupe of lead singers. But, of course, Clinton was in the middle leading the frenzied players like a pied piper of Funk. Included in the classic 18-song setlist were many Funk anthems like “Flashlight,” “Atomic Dog,” “Maggot Brain,” “Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof off the Sucker),” and climaxed the marathon of Funk with “Mama Told Me.” The set consisted of Parliament and Funkadelic songs and a dance-inducing cover of House of Pain’s “Jump Around.” Long live the king of Funk, the last of the old guard.