The Mothership landed on Campus Martius Friday, August 26th concluding the Downtown Detroit Parks 2016 Summer in the Parks wide array of lively and culturally diverse programs. George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic headlined Summer Fest 2016’s final “4th Fridays” concert bringing thousands to their feet for a nonstop groove because ain’t no party like a P-Funk party ‘cause a P-Funk party don’t stop!
Uncle Jam did it to the cheering Funkateers in their earholes as only George Clinton can with a set-list of his platinum jams old and new including the anthem One Nation Under a Groove President Barack Obama requestedClinton perform at his 2009 Presidential Inaugural. With several original Parliament and Funkadelic band members,Clinton delivered a Motor Booty Affair reminiscent of the all night concerts of the 1970s and ‘80s held at Olympia Stadium, Cobo Hall and Joe Louis Arena for the thousands of attendees lining the Park. Music lovers from 8 to 80 years of age, in a rainbow of ethnicities, recited every lyric of the songs performed from the P-Funk discography, and a 70 year old woman was seen jumping a fence to get closer to the Funk God making her way to the stage before being pushed back by Clinton’s army of adoring fans and security when the opening licks of Flashlight were played.
Native Detroiter Michael “Clip” Payne, a graduate of Northern High School, is still on vocals with the band after 39 years whipping concert goers into a frenzy with his booming distinctive voice instructing the audience to “put a glide in your stride and a dip in your hip, and come on up to the Mothership” when the band unleashed the iconicMothership Connection. Clip could be seen in a pair of well-worn overalls going from the stage into the audience circulating from the front to the back of the crowd with microphone in hand giving attendees a truly interactive experience. He stood next to me and others several times doing the bump while singing Atomic Dog making this one of our most memorable P-Funk experiences.
A lifelong Funkateer, my first P-Funk concert was at the age of five when my father took me to see my cousin Parliament/Funkadelic guitarist Eddie Hazel perform. When Blackbyrd McKnight, the electric guitarist and funk practitioner performed an 8 minute solo of Maggot Brain on the Campus Martius stage, I was placed into a trance remembering the way Eddie played his signature style on this song. The crowd was hypnotized by Blackbyrd’s riveting rendition he’s been performing since 1978 when he joined the band.
Four decades later, veterans Lige Curry is still on bass, Bennie Cowin is blowing his trumpet and Greg Thomas is anchoring Parliament/Funkadelic on saxophone to the delight of Funkateers while Stephen Boyd continues on vocals after 28 years. Younger band members Ron Wright and Benzel Cowan on drums, Trafael on guitar and Danny Bedrosian on keyboards were joined by vocalists Tra’zae Clinton, Brandi Scott, Tonysha Nelson and Patavian Lewis effectively and effortlessly playing true, authentic funk. And, Starchild’s nemesis, Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk, reached Funkentelechy dancing and performing acrobatics across the stage with his well chiseled abs on display in his elaborate costume bringing the P-Funk mythology to life once more.
Seeing George Clinton, Funk’s principal architect, once again in my hometown against the backdrop of downtown Detroit’s skyscrapers aglow in the moonlight was very special and his admiring fans surrounded him and the band after this amazing concert to show their love and appreciation for this producer/writer/performer’s relentless dedication to funk as a musical form. Graciously, Clinton and the band hugged, fist bumped and signed vintage albums for an hour after they exited the stage proving that Funk is its own reward.
Janis D. Hazel, is a native of Detroit and former Executive Director of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation