The folks at the upcoming Telluride Blues & Brews Festival found themselves in a pickle recently, when Sunday headliner Phil Lesh had to cancel on doctor’s orders. Back surgery and subsequent recovery time prohibited the legendary Grateful Dead bassist and his band from performing his last few gigs of the summer season, including Steve Gumble’s mid-September gathering in Telluride Town Park.
With mere weeks until the festival’s Sept. 13 opening — not to mention the festival program’s impending deadline — Gumble and crew hustled. In the end, he convinced the Mothership to land. George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic are bringing funk, finery and over-the-top freaky fun for the festival’s final act of the weekend.
And, in what will be a truly historic occasion, the set will be Clinton’s last show of a career that he launched in the 1950s. Now the proud recipient of a 2019 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the singer-songwriter, bandleader and consummate showman who has steered a group whose music has been described as a melding of “science-fiction, outlandish fashion, psychedelic culture and surreal humor,” began in doo-wop.
In the 1950s and ’60s, a barbershop in Plainfield, New Jersey, which Clinton co-owned, was a hangout for the city’s doo-wop and soul artists. His doo-wop group — called The Parliaments — by the 1970s had morphed into Parliament and Funkadelic (P-Funk). This forward-thinking collective dominated the charts with numerous R&B hit singles and three platinum-selling albums. Bringing the far-out sensibilities of Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa into the musical mix, along with the happy clamor of Sly and The Family Stone and James Brown’s deep groove and onstage flair, P-Funk became notorious for incredible live performances.
For the uninitiated, expect sequins, sky-high platform boots, feather boas and unparalleled funk. Credited with being a progenitor of the disco movement and even the rap genre, Clinton, now 78, is on his final lap around the musical universe, one he calls the One Nation Under a Groove Tour. Blues & Brews officials were not available for comment before press time Tuesday afternoon.
In a February interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Clinton gave a hint as to what to expect.
“We have to go through the history, and we have to do the new stuff because we have such young kids that’s into the group now that know the history, by way of the Chili Peppers and hip-hop groups,” he told writer Kory Grow. “They know us through these different realms, so we have to represent all the different eras we’ve been through. So I usually call the songs when I get on the stage, according to what the crowd feels like to me. I can jump from 50 years ago to right up to now, and people will be familiar with the songs. And since we never do them the same way, it’s a new experience.”
This will be the second appearance on the Blues & Brews stage for Clinton and his merry band of funksters.
Blues & Brews this year is also featuring headliners, bluesman Boz Scaggs on Saturday and John Fogerty, cofounder of Creedence Clearwater Revival, on Friday. The festival is now in its 26th year.
For tickets and more information, visit tellurideblues.com.