Dâm-Funk Enters the Boogie Zone at the Vagabond, September 23


The Vagabond

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Better Than: Getting the high score on Miss Pac-Man while listening to Purple Rain.

In an alternate universe, James Brown is John Lennon, Parliament Funkadelic is Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson is still making songs like "Rock With You," and g-funk is grunge. On this other Earth, kids buy keytars and 808 drum machines for the most sincere reasons, and a well-groomed perm is always a good look.

Last night, Pasadena, California's Dâm-Funk (born Damon Riddick) teleported Shake's main room into that freaky universe. Armed with an arsenal of rare boogie, funk, and gangsta rap records, he let us into his world. Riddick was part DJ, part keyboard virtuoso, and part MC. Most importantly, he was all show. He crept up on stage and started cutting up classic West Coast hip-hop. Mixing from NWA to his own material, he took center stage, rhyming with ferocity.

A more than capable MC, the show would've been just fine if it was just Dâm- Funk rapping over some beats. But that wasn't enough. The rhymes turned into melody. With all the sweat and soul of Luther Vandross, he let out lovelorn cries and made the ladies squeal. He quickly merged his rapping with his singing and came out sounding like Warren G with something sexy on his mind.

He declared, "This is beautiful music for beautiful people, because you deserve it!" He was conductor and orchestra, dashing from the mic to his keyboard and back to the turntables. The heir-apparent to King James Brown's "Hardest Working Man in Show Business" throne would not stop.

He threw a couple of 12" records onto the Technics and offered up "some building blocks of g-funk" as he took us into "the Boogie Zone." The crowd was loving it. Shit, in this alternate universe, people always party like it's 1999. As the ladies and gentlemen got freaky-deaky on each other, he let his hair down, changed his sunglasses and strapped on the keytar.

At this moment, every single phone turned into a camera. Jaws dropped ... We were witnesses to a completely non-ironic keytar solo. This wasn't just pretty cool. It was fucking amazing. Everyone fixated on Dâm-Funk and his pearly whites. The entire room gravitated around their new keytar hero.

The man kept going, on and on for over two hours, with no sign of slowing down. He was loving every minute of it. After an extended vocoder solo, he asked, "Am I supposed to stop now?" Without hesitation, the crowd replied, "No!!!!" Then, near the end of the set, he testified, "I'm just a regular dude, loving this music." That was only partially true, even in this alternate universe: Riddick is a hell of a lot more than just a regular dude.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: In another life, I would've done anything to be one-tenth as entertaining and energetic as Dâm-Funk

Random Detail: He changed his sunglasses at least four times.

The Crowd: A pansexual, cross-cultural, trans-generational melting pot.

Overheard in the crowd: "He's mad Pootie Tang with it."

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Jose Flores