For a musician, there's nothing quite like taking your child to their first concert. It's a loaded event, one you hope and pray doesn't take place in some enormodome watching Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus lip synch. Thankfully, my daughter Jade has pretty good taste for an 8-year-old. Hence, her first show was this past Saturday's Kinfolk Soul Food Festival at the Central Broward Regional Stadium in Lauderhill, starring her favorite funk superhero, Bootsy Collins.
It was sheer luck we went Saturday, as opposed to Friday in West Palm Beach at the Meyer Amphitheater. Friday's show featured enough organizational snafus and monitor debacles to make the show run three hours late, cutting co-headliner Cameo's set to 12 minutes and Bootsy's set out altogether. This left several thousand angry fans half-placated with tickets to the Lauderhill show and inspired the famously happy-go-lucky Collins to rage against the promoter on his Facebook page.
The hangover from the night before was evident as Jade and I pulled into the parking lot. When we got out of the car, we heard Cameo close out their set with "Word Up" a full two hours before they were originally slated to go on. It was clear that there were to be no headliners getting bumped on this day. Even that concession reportedly couldn't keep Bootsy's stage manager from quitting on site. At the ticket table, customers screamed at the nice lady handing out tickets because the $40 day of show price was $5 more than the price listed in the advertising. Once inside, the brand new, 20,000 capacity high school football stadium was rather empty, populated only by a couple thousand old school funk fans hanging in the shade. The soundstage was on the opposite side of the field, looking positively tiny in relation to its surroundings.
As strange as the scene was, Jade didn't know any better. She asked me if we could go backstage. As we had on VIP bracelets, we did. We found a few funk veterans back there, including Miami Bass king, Amos Larkin. Then she got bored and wanted "to see." We walked through a gap in the fence and wound up directly in front of the stage, just stage left of the lead vocal microphone. The largely 50-something crowd of black folks tripped out on the little half-Asian girl who joined them in shouting "We Want Bootsy!"
"You like Bootsy?" One lady standing next to us incredulously asked Jade
"I LOVE BOOTSY!" Jade replied.
After a 90 minute wait, Bootsy's Funk Unity Band finally took the stage to the strains of "Ahh... The Name is Bootsy." Right off the bat, my jaw dropped as Gary "Mudbone" Cooper, the original lead singer in Bootsy's Rubber Band, was onstage after more than a decade of exile in France. The funk was ready to roll.
The Unity Band was 12 members strong, and sonically perfect. Moog keyboard lines pierced through the groove and slithered down earholes, until the entire audience was getting funky on the one.
When Bootzilla took the stage with his trusty space bass, the crowd erupted and Jade went into shock. The star of her favorite YouTube cartoon was in front of her live in the flesh. After 20 minutes, the shock wore off. She began throwing the funk sign as Bootsy led the band through a dizzying array of Rubber Band and Parliment-Funkadelic medleys. Most of the tunes from the first three Rubber Band LPs were touched on, as were many of the Parliament hits Bootsy had a hand in writing.
They were delivered with a precision much tighter than anything I have experienced in the 20-plus P-funk and P-funk related shows I've seen over the last 21 years. When George Clinton and his P-Funk All Stars are at the helm, the journey is more important than the destination. A 4-hour set can be comprised of a half dozen tunes.
Bootsy is decidedly more about the tunes than his former running buddy. He seamlessly grooved in and out of his solo catalog and P-Funk anthems like a Formula 1 driver. Just when the medleys may have gotten frustrating, Bootzilla eased into his soul ballad "I'd Rather Be with You" and savored it with the crowd, turning the chorus into a sing-along. Then, as if on cue, the sun went down, his space bass lit up and he busted into a mesmerizing, Hendrix-esque psychedelic solo.
Mudbone then joined Bootsy in singing the chorus of P-Funk's signature showstopper, "Mothership Connection." Dearly departed P-funk guitarist Glen Goins may have originated the vocal line that launched a million bong hits. Dr. Dre may have started an empire by sampling it. However Mudbone spent enough time on the Mothership to absolutely nail it. He then led the unity band in a spirited rendition of "Flashlight" -- and managed to give the funk standard a fresh coat of paint.
Bootsy returned to the stage wearing a robe featuring Casper the Friendly Ghost and broke into his signature tune, "Stretching Out in A Rubber Band." Halfway through, Bootsy flashed his Cheshire cat grin, asked the crowd if he could come down and say hi. After a resoundingly positive roar, Bootsy wriggled out of his robe and revealed a Lebron James Miami Heat jersey. The crowd got even louder.
Bootsy sat down on the stage next to Jade and I. Jade reached out and touched him on the arm, as if to make sure this was really happening. After Bootsy spent 5 minutes in the crowd, he jumped back onstage, and the microphones were cut off.
Bootsy had come to Lauderhill, and he had conquered their funkateers.
"Daddy, can we meet Bootsy?" Jade asked as we collected our lawn chairs stashed underneath the stage.
"Maybe." I replied, having heard Bootsy likes kids.
We walked backstage, and the tell-tale rented SUV was parked behind the stage with Bootsy in it, ready to whisk him back to the hotel. Jade walked up to it and peered in the window.
"Open the door" Bootsy's friendly voice said.
I was moved as only a father can be with his daughter. "Bootsy, this is my daughter's first show. I play with the Blowfly, and it's an honor having you be her first concert, as I have loved your music for many, many years."
"Oh, wow," Bootsy replied, "Come on in and take a picture."
Jade climbed in and sat next to Bootsy.
"Say Yabba Dabba Doo Baby!" I said as I clicked twice.
"Yabba Dabba Doo Baby!" Bootsy replied with a big smile.
Jade got out, we said our thank yous to Bootsy and he drove off. As the enormity of what had just happened sank in, she began jumping up and down and shouted: "DADDY! YOU ARE THE FATHER OF THE YEAR!!!"