Arts & Culture

Lupo’s feels the funk Friday night

Contributing Writer
Monday, February 13, 2012


You thought you knew music? Funk what you heard.

Bedecked in alien heads and tophats, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic took the stage at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel Friday night in downtown Providence. The venue was packed with at least three generations, from hip college kids to local tough guys — don’t try to squeeze past them — to mustachioed old folks who have been grooving with P Funk for who knows how long.

The band came onstage and quickly started playing the bouncy bass-y riffs that can’t help but make a listener sway. The songs’ refrains were largely repeated call-and-response — “Yank my doodle,” Clinton demanded, and the audience gleefully demanded the same. “Yank my doodle, be a dandy!” 

Each song broke down into long jam sessions, distorted guitar riffs and deep synthesizers that rhythmically washed over the crowd as it undulated obediently. The jamming seemed somewhat self-indulgent, though — four-minute songs took five times that long to play. But, based on the atmosphere of the venue, it is likely many of the audience members were not paying such close attention to the passage of time.

More than anything, the show was incredibly bizarre. In a particularly memorable exchange between Clinton and the audience, the singer boasted, “We got that doodoo.” The crowd, judging by its response, did, too. 

But it was more than words — a man came onstage with a poop helmet on, looking like his face was peeking out of a giant pile of chocolate soft-serve ice cream. He danced around, took a stage break and then came back for more. Point taken.

Later, aliens came onstage, and a shirtless man sported an enormous feathery sombrero. A man in a dog costume broke it down during “Atomic Dog,” a huge fan favorite. 

Clinton was not the only member of the group singing. At times, he would take a seat onstage and let other members of the group take over. A woman 30 years younger than the rest of the group — dressed as a nurse on roller blades — screeched into the microphone when she got the chance. A balding man waxed poetic about the secrets of the universe. 

Clinton’s grandchildren came onstage to rap. His granddaughter “smelled some stank,” and she wanted some. She got some. The hip-hop layered seamlessly over the funk rhythms and made for a nice change of pace.

We wanted the funk — we got the funk. Unfortunately, the funk did not age as well as it might have. The high points of the show were wonderful — the call-and-response was a pleasure, and the entire affair was eminently boogie-able. 

But the music, to this listener, could have been tighter than it was. The long jams at the tail end of every song meant the concert dragged more than it ought to have. The three hours of music really felt like three hours. 

Then again, P Funk wouldn’t be P Funk if they didn’t do things just the way they wanted to.