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If you hear any noise, it was George singing

We here at I’m With Stupid have decided to do something a little different this week and indulge our inner critic, so we’re going to review a concert we saw recently: George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic at the annual Snowmass Chili Pepper and Brew Fest. We’re also going to drop the whole “we” thing at this point because, well, there is no we. It’s actually just me. I know you’re all shocked that one man could do so much by himself.

Anyway, back to P-Funk. You would be hard pressed to find a bigger fan of Parliament/Funkadelic than yours truly. I was splanked by the bop gun years ago, freeing my mind and behind from constipated notions. (That actually makes sense in P-Funk parlance. Look it up if you don’t understand.) I’ve been a devoted funkateer ever since. Those who have seen me dance might think I’m lying about my behind being freed, but they never saw how stiff I was before getting splanked.

The last of the four times I saw George Clinton was probably 14 or 15 years ago. George was an old man then, so I was very interested to see how he’d aged in the last decade and a half. Bear in mind that this is a man who was arrested for smoking crack in Tallahassee just a few months ago. I made sure to lower my expectations accordingly.

The band, 13 people strong, came out first and launched into a stirring rendition of “Bop Gun.” They followed that up with a couple more Parliament tracks and a killer version of Funkadelic’s “Cosmic Slop.” During these intro songs I could hear the people around me wondering aloud which one was George Clinton. There was an old guy with a fuzzy gray beard and another guy wearing a crown, but it was pretty easy to tell that neither was George. They both seemed too functional.

Finally, after about six songs, a heavyset guy in a long-sleeve black T-shirt and an odd headdress that vaguely resembled a chef’s toque ambled out onto the stage. He wore no rainbow ribbons in his hair, and his beard was close-cropped and neatly trimmed. Still, his shuffling gait and inimitable smile made it clear this was the man we’d all come to see. If there were any lingering doubts, they were erased when the young contortionist playing the part of Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk (look that one up too) unfurled a banner reading “F–k George!”

The years seemed as though they’d been treating George well, the crack smoking notwithstanding. He appeared robust and healthy for a man of 69, even bouncing up and down on stage to get the crowd fired up. I began to think my lowered expectations were unnecessary. Then he opened his mouth and sang.

Actually, “sang” isn’t exactly the right word for what George did. “Sang” would imply that there was some musicality to the sounds emanating from his mouth. Trust me when I say there was nothing of the sort. This was more like the sound a pig with a terminal case of bronchitis would make if it tried to squeal while a large person stood on its throat. It was terrifying.

Still, this was George Clinton, the living legend, and I loved him anyway. And, to be honest, the barking he did during “Atomic Dog” never sounded better. His screams were spot-on, too, for what it’s worth.

As always, Parliament/Funkadelic proved a democratic outfit, with nearly everyone getting a turn in the spotlight. One female back-up singer got to shake her ample rump to the delight of the crowd, and the original “Kidd Funkadelic,” guitarist Michael Hampton, performed a blistering version of “Maggot Brain.”

The most intriguing part, though, was when George brought out his grandchildren during an extended “Flashlight” and let them rap. His granddaughter, Sativa, started off by chanting “Something stank and I want some,” a very thinly veiled endorsement of marijuana, and then followed that up by rapping “Hard as steel and still getting harder,” an overt reference to her sexual appetites. I couldn’t really picture myself rapping about similar subjects in front of my grandparents, but then my grandparents didn’t smoke much crack.

George’s grandson, Ric Smoov, was more subdued than Sativa, and his rap was so quiet I couldn’t make out most of the words. I did, however, hear him say something about “George Clinton’s my grandpa, and it don’t get funkier than that.” Agreed, Ric. It don’t get funkier than that, even if the old man can’t sing anymore.

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Todd Hartley

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06 2010

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