“Ain’t no party like a P-funk Party, cause a P-funk party don’t stop.”
On November first, the legendary George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic came to the Patrick Gymnasium to funkify the student body of the University of Vermont. The crowd was surprisingly small, and the stage was packed with Marshal Stacks giving way to a loud evening. At 8:30 PM the funk warriors took the stage, and the crowd could feel the presence of a band that has been in the game way longer than most of it has been alive.
The band opened with epic “Maggot Brain,” a 12 minute guitar solo written by original lead guitar player Eddie Hazel. Sadly enough the make-your-hair-stand-up-on-your-back “Maggot Brain” sound did not exist. Instead “Maggot Brain” was plagued with mishaps and shortcomings, a gray cloud that would sit over Parliament Funkadelic for most of the remaining show. During, “Maggot Brain,” one of the lead guitar player’s strings broke, and he was then handed an untuned guitar, and forced to tune it by ear on stage. The guitars seemed problematic for most of the night. For some reason the balance between them was non-existent. The distortion at times was so overwhelming that I almost could not tell whether I was at a funk show or a heavy metal show. But in the band’s defense, the Patrick Gymnasium’s natural acoustics could have made Miles Davis sound bad.
About three songs in, the Godfather of Funk himself made his way out onto to the stage. The stage presence of George Clinton is incomparable to that of anyone else. He could sit center stage in a rocking chair, bopping his head and tapping his foot, and still be cooler than Lou Reed, David Bowie, and Mick Jagger put together. Clinton brought out his rapping granddaughter for two songs, at which point the band probably sounded the more organized than it had all night.
The crowd was happy to hear such Parliament staples as, “Flashlight” and “Tear the Roof Off,” even amongst the chaotic disorganization. Microphones were not on when they were supposed to be, and members of the band never really seemed that they were confident that they were supposed to be on stage.
Parliament Funkadelic, as a band of veterans, certainly did not put on a veteran show. The crowd sang in unison, “Ain’t no party like a P-funk Party cause a P-funk Party don’t stop,” and that in itself captured the evening. With George Clinton and the boys it is not so much about the music anymore as it is about the party. There is no doubt that parties are a good time, but one can’t help but be slightly disappointed when a band that is the root of all funk now plays packaged funk, with the same set list more or less every night. P-funk is supposed to be “uncut funk, the bomb,” but now seems to be controlled and routine.