Funk & Soul Royalty At Long Beach Funk Fest
Long Beach-Thousands of funkateers from all over California descended upon Pine Avenue for the inaugural Long Beach Funk Festival, August 29, 2009. This was a festival of all funk and nuttin but the funk that brought together old and new funk fans to showcase where funk came from and where it’s going. This marvelous event was the brainchild of Long Beach resident and funkateer Bobby Easton of the Long Beach Band Delta Nove.This was part of the SAM (Summer and Music) series, founded by Justin Hectus, and Rand Foster and backed by the DLBA (Downtown Long Beach Associates), Long Beach Redevelopment Agency and Long Beach Arts Council. The festival featured many funk and soul luminaries such as Victor Orlando (Gap Band) and Fun JA LA, Baby Stone(with Novena Carmel, daughter of Sly Stone), Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, Mandrill, The Meters’ Experience with Leo Nocentelli, Dawn Silva formerly of George Clinton Band with an all-star band consisting of Dewayne “Blackbyrd” McKnight-guitarist extraordinaire, former member of Headhunters and musical Director of P-Funk, Cynthia Robinson and Jerry Martini(original horn players of Sly & The Family Stone, Gail Muldrow(Grand Central Station) and Lonnie Marshall (Weapon of Choice), P-Funk keyboardist Danny Bedrosian & Secret Army, Breakestra, 00 Soul, Slapbak, Delta Nove. Funk fans were treated to twelve hours of funk on a hot and humid Southern California day.
The music on one of the two alternating stages got under way about an hour late. The funkateers were rewarded with the opening set featuring Victor Orlando (The Gap Band) and Fun JA LA featuring former member of The Gap Band, Slave, Rolls Royce and Chaka Khan. They opened with “Dance To The Music” which easily became the anthem for people to move to the funk grooves. The funk grooves continued with their set on “Tell Me Something Good,” “Thank You Letting Me Be Myself,” “Ain’t Nobody,” and concluded with “I Got The Funk Stuck In My Throat.”
Master of Ceremonies Ricky Vincent instructed the funkateers to head over to the South Stage to continue to get their funk groove on with the band 00 Soul, as they successfully blended some classic soul and R&B, and Latin grooves.
Novena Carmel, vocalist, pianist and daughter of funk/rock legend Sly Stone and her band Baby Stone captivated me and the crowd with their energetic soul and funk sounds on the tunes “I Just Want To Say Hello,” “I’ve Got a Groove In My Bone,” “Another Sunny Day in LA,” and concluded with “Sing a Simple Song.”
The festival continued in a funk mode for the rest of the afternoon and into the late evenings and early morning hours with additional crowd pleasing sets by Danny Bedrosian & Secret Army, Slapbak, Breakestra, Delta Nove, The Meters’ Experience featuring Leo Nocentelli, Charles Wright and 103rd Street Rhythm Band, Dawn Silva and Mandrill, followed by an after party at Blue Café.
There were lots of excitement and performances at the Red Bull Skateboarding contest. Dazzling skateboarding techniques were showcased by a plethora of celebrity skateboarders. Entertainment was provided by MC’s and rappers.
Remo Drums was set up in the Kid’s Zone for the young ones to “EXPRESS THEMSELVES.” An opportunity drawing featuring some fabulous prizes such as music gear, Aquarium of The Pacific tickets, gift certificates, gift baskets, and clothing’s with 100% of the proceeds going towards music education programs in Long Beach. DJ’s at the Amoeba Records booth played tunes that resulted in dancer’s free-styling on the dance floor. If that wasn’t enough funk for you- an art exhibit by George Clinton presented by Getdown Entertainment were prominently on display in the Phantom Gallery.
A funky good time was had by all in attendance. The success of this inaugural Funkfest has set a template for this to become an annual festival and a welcome addition to the other internationally known music festivals and cultural events in the City of Long Beach.