George Clinton Brings In 'Da Noise, 'Da Funk to Yoshi's

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Taryn Erhardt/Photo






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George Clinton seems different these days. His look, no longer flamboyantly funky with his erstwhile rainbow dreads and white beard, is more like that of an aging gangsta rapper. His voice, once a soulful, baby-making baritone, now sounds like a metal rake dragging across concrete. Not to mention, George Clinton now plays Yoshi's.

The San Francisco incarnation of Oakland's venerable jazz club has made an effort to host acts appealing to a more youthful, top-40-aware audience. In recent months, hip-hop acts Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and Public Enemy have performed, and Mos Def will take the stage for four nights in February.

69-year-old Clinton seems like a more logical choice for Yoshi's, in that he's one of those rare artists with as many fans in high school as in retirement. The latter demographic is generally better-represented at Yoshi's, but thanks to a large, improvised dance floor, it's not an altogether terrible venue for a famously funky - in every possible sense of the word - group of musicians (though it's hardly ideal).

You're probably familiar with the legend of George Clinton - his outlandish, larger-than-life tours, his alleged (and impressive) drug habit, his influence on West Cost hip-hop, his crazed funk genius, and his being pretty much the embodiment of what my generation thinks was cool and liberated about the '70s.

While an invitation to play Yoshi's acknowledges Parliament-Funkadelic's newfound recognition as high art, the band would appear interested only in the first part of that phrase. A P-Funk show is, for better or worse, as much a spectacle as a concert, complete with blunt-passing, striptease-ing, and belly dancing. At times there were as many as 15 performers on the cramped stage. With all those sources of sound, clarity is hardly the band's strong suit (nor is lucidity, for that matter).

The classic P-Funk songs, however, call less for precision than a preternaturally funky bassline and a jubilant chorus. "Flash Light," from Parliament's 1977 album Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome, employs this formula to hip-shaking success. Lacking a definitive verse/chorus structure, it exemplifies the sort of repetitively pleasurable jams for which P-Funk is known, among other things.

Inhabiting a large chunk of the relatively short show, the "Flash Light" sequence reminded the audience that funk is largely a euphemism for another four-letter F-word. While the music itself evokes the undulations of two bodies in amorous sync, P-Funk made sure we got the point. Sir Nose D'Voidoffunk, a recurring villain from Parliament's late-'70s albums, appeared onstage in the abdominally-gifted flesh to taunt the band and stimulate the audience with a variety of bodily maneuvers, culminating in a bout of simulated sex with a curvaceous backup singer. George Clinton might look different these days, but some things don't change - namely his and his band's apparent mentality that taking a date to a P-Funk show should result in some damn good sex, regardless of the venue.

Admittedly, giving up the funk at a place like Yoshi's is a little bit weird. But looking out at an audience in part perched at cocktail tables didn't seem to bother George Clinton (though it's debatable whether he consistently knew exactly where he was). While not a particularly good venue for a display of such unadulterated funk, Yoshi's at least seems to have taken to heart a line Dr. Funkenstein himself shouted throughout the night: "Free your mind and your ass will follow."


Nick is abdominally-gifted. Ask him about it at [email protected]



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