Wednesday, September 29, 2010

phunkin in DC

I've spent much of the Summer obsessing over New Orleans music, FINALLY gaining some small appreciation for its diversity and also the interrelationship between the various indigenous styles that've coexisted there over the past century or so. One of it's aspects that emerged as key and quite unique to this musical history is a continued respect for tradition and a desire to preserve and cultivate it -- while also innovating within it -- and that goes right back to Jelly Roll Morton and contemporaries like Buddy Bolden, Sidney Bechet, and then continues on thru the likes of Rebirth Brass Band, DJ Jubilee et al.

I've majorly obsessed over Dumpstaphunk, a band led by Aaron Neville's son Ivan Neville - whose played keyboards with an interesting range of people including Keith Richards and of course the Neville Brothers. Checking on their website: (you should visit - once you enter it automatically plays a series of great live recordings -- I love the fact that the top item on their news board reads: "The newest feature of our message board is that it is now 100% pornography free!!") I bemoaned the apparent lack of regular touring that'd bring 'em close to Trenton or Philadelphia (my primary stomping grounds nowadays).

I was preparing for a trip to Baltimore and a visit to young Wuelf in Rockville, MD and trying to work the day job double-hard so I could afford the day off this would entail. It was BLAZING hot and I succumbed to turning on the air conditioner in my office, which only is effective if I shut the room's door- cutting me off from the stereo in the next room. So's I visit to use their sound feed for background music, casually look at their tour dates - and see they're playing a free show at the Museum of the American Indian in DC the same weekend we were planning on visiting!

That weekend, we planned too busy an itinerary leaving minutes to spare to go from city to city, event to event. And to make an overlong story slightly shorter -- we got stuck on the dreaded Metro waiting at Woodley Park station for 20 minutes with no indication that we'd ever start moving again. So at the time Dumpstaphunk were scheduled to start playing, we bolted out of the subway, hailed and taxi, burned rubber and arrived about 30 minutes late. The area looked utterly deserted and I feared we'd missed their set, but as we neared the Museum, funky sounds started slipping around its corner and as we closed in we could see the overflow of crowd spilling out onto the street.

It was a glorious set up - a lovely late afternoon in late Summer in the courtyard of the Museum, fountain bubbling off to one side of the stage helping to cool the breezes blowing over the audience, lovely golden glow bathing the stage. And Dumpstaphunk throwing down in fine style!

They concentrated on tunes from their new album "Everybody's Wants Sum" which tend to be jazzy instrumentals or more straightforward soul as opposed to the rock inflected P-Funk of their debut EP "Listen Hear." These guys are all world class players -- but who evince that not by instrumental pyrotechnics per se (tho there was some of that at some points) but by the effortless grace of their playing; they were clearly totally engaged with the meaning and feeling of their music, not having to give conscious thought to their playing. Hard to ignore that they're Ivan and the two bassists are also powerful and distinctive vocalists and no slouches at tight, soulful harmony singing.

They closed the show with a hot ready of Sly's "I Want to Take You Higher" joined by all the Native American performers they'd shared the bill with and then of the Rolling Stones' "Miss You" - frankly the best version I've heard live or on record. This show was video'ed and you can view it here:,_Stevie_Salas,_Murray_Porter_Dumpstaphunk

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