Master of ceremony

George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic live at House of Blues, February 25, 2009
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  March 3, 2009

The author meets Clinton

As if Ash Wednesday weren't already the best party night of the year in Boston, George Clinton and his motley crew swung their tour bus through Lansdowne Street last night. And trust me — they were wasted on more than just the blood of Christ.

The show was extremely sold out, and heads formed thick lines before doors even opened. No surprise there; Boston is a college town after all, and dormitory conduct code requires all students to go through some sort of P-Funk phase. Fortunately, the House of Blues staff almost has its shit together at the brand new venue, so things moved relatively quickly.

The main event commenced with Parliament keyboardist Dan Bedrosian — a Lawrence native — holding down his home-town crowd. For nearly an hour before Clinton moseyed out, Funkadelic all-stars filed on stage one by one, from Diaper Man to drummer Rico Lewis. Once the full mother ship landed, Clinton entered wearing Tina Turner's scalped mane and announced that he was celebrating a new holiday: "The Boston P-Party." Prepared to groove, the crowd chanted, "In 20-09 — P-Funk is gon-na shine." Then came the blessing.

Clinton is a prime performer for the same reason he's a lousy reality-television star — he wants nothing more than harmony. And that's what he got from funk fanatics of every shade and age who came to bang through new cuts like "Bustin' Loose" and eternal bangers like "Get Off Your Ass and Jam" and, of course, Parliament's anthem, "Make My Funk the P-Funk."

The venue was well suited to Clinton fans: there was ample room to dance, and there were plenty of remote corners to crouch in for those embarking on virgin acid trips. I'm not sure whether it was for one night only, but lobby vendors were selling fried chicken that was almost tasty enough to compensate for House of Blues security's not allowing folks to step outside for cigarettes.

Six months ago I had the numbing experience of spending an entire afternoon with George Clinton. In our time together I learned remarkable things: he eats peanut-butter-and-psilocybin-jelly sandwiches for lunch, and "Give Up the Funk" was written as a slap at David Bowie, whose 1975 hit "Fame" Clinton believed was a below-the-belt P-Funk ripoff.

Near the end of our interview, I asked what it's like to rock 200 shows a year at his age — to which he responded that he did more like 300 gigs in 2007. He might not get up and down the stage the way he used to, but P-Funk's rainbow-colored ringleader still has enough gas to send rooms into frenzies.

Over the past few years, there's been much media noise about how flamboyant rock stars have been replaced by lame jeans-and-T-shirt frontmen like Chris Martin. It's mostly true — few big-ticket acts compare with Hendrix or the Faces or Alice Cooper in his prime.

But Clinton and his spaz brigade have never let me down — not even now that dude is half as mobile as he used to be. The music industry — or the cops, for that matter — have hardly been kind to the godfather of funk, but that's never for a second stopped him from helping beer-gutted ex-frats and irie Rastafarians get funked up beyond repair. Thanks be to George.

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