Funked Up

A Parliament/Funkadelic concert will make you feel like you're tripping, even if you're not. Band members wear the most outlandish gear, including wizard outfits, giant fake noses, elaborate capes, and even adult diapers and nothing else. From the shadows, a dreadlocked shaman emerges, shaking his multicolored hair extensions and commanding the crowd to move. He'll respond to Starchild, Mr. Wiggles, and Dr. Funkenstein, but this musical magician is best known as the one and only George Clinton, the most prominent dignitary in the history of funk, the architect of both Parliament and Funkadelic. The audience follows his lead, becoming one nation under his groove, freeing their minds and letting their asses follow. Not bad for a former hairdresser out of New Jersey.

In the Seventies, Clinton had more than 40 R&B hit singles, including three number ones. Financial turbulence in the Eighties devastated the original lineup and left many former members of Parliament/Funkadelic disgruntled with Clinton. These things can happen, especially when you're a funked-up bandleader juggling more than 40 musicians for four labels under three different names. Clinton has stumbled along the way, most notably one year ago, when he was arrested by Florida cops for cocaine possession. Still, Clinton is a savvy motherfunker. Unlike many of his era, he rode the wave of the future, readily allowing his influence to seep into hip-hop and making P-Funk even more heavily sampled than James Brown. Clinton released two albums in 1996, T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M (The Awesome Power of a Fully Operational Mothership), which brought the old P-Funk crew back together, and Greatest Funkin' Hits, which laced retro-funk nuggets with raps from modern hip-hop stars such as Ice Cube, Busta Rhymes, and A Tribe Called Quest. Without the influence of George Clinton, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and the whole California gangsta sound wouldn't have the musical resonance that gets both old- and new-school fans bobbing their heads. This New Year's Eve show promises to deliver all of P-Funk's classics: "Flash Light," "Atomic Dog," "Mothership Connection," and "Maggot Brain," alongside more politically minded numbers like "Chocolate City," "America Eats Its Young," "Cosmic Slop," and "Paint the White House Black." The opening act, Herbal Nation, is the group of choice for High Times magazine, having headlined twice at the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam. Best known for their song "We Love The Herb," this band's funky jams also deliver a dose of pro-hemp awareness. Back in the day, George Clinton put on a massive show, complete with a giant, illuminated spaceship that floated down to the stage. These days the production might be scaled down, but the energy remains the same. The band lays down a tight groove and puts on a visual, colorful show. There's nobody else like George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic. At the end of a year dominated by singers, not songwriters, and actresses who stray from their day jobs to warble disposable pop trash, we want the funk. We need the funk. We gotta have the funk. Now, more than ever.