On an unseasonably warm Tuesday evening in Jacksonville Beach, as the locals focused on the Tim Tebow/Florida Gator-mania, First Coast funkateers braced themselves for the new-age sonic hurricane that is New Orleans’ Dumpstaphunk. The band was still somewhat fresh off a positively killin’ weekend converting the non-believers with their patented deep-fried, bouncing, elastic jams at the Bear Creek Festival ‘funktion’ (read our review of Bear Creek here). Now the funk train made a return stop in North Florida at Freebird Live for an evening that doubled as bassist Tony Hall‘s birthday jam. Chuuch!Post-Katrina NOLA is a new and different beast, the burden of the storm soaking into the skin of those who embody the soul of our nation’s culturally richest city. Many of N’awlinz eclectic artists have transferred this stormy evolution to their art, and few have done it more seamlessly than Dumpstaphunk. Their sultry, bluesy vocals, sinister bottom end and fiercely soulful melodies betray a battered yet determined and hopeful new New Orleans. A collective that wears its Neville Brothers/NOLA genetics proudly on their sleeve, D-Phunk is slowly but surely developing a horde of fans and a genre unto themselves, their music decidedly Cajun but also New York aggressive. A pair of overwhelming sets at Bear Creek Music Festival did wonders to wake Northern Florida to this new funk creature of the French Quarter. On this night they would merely solidify that notion, if not break any new ground for the faithful few hundred who turned out.
Local stalwarts Inca Maya, they of the Skynyrd family tree and an area reference point for the past few years, warmed up the stage, and catch fire they did. Focusing primarily on their newest self-titled release, the troupe delivered an interesting mix of Southern rock, danceable grooves and searing guitar melodies. The band is clearly the brainchild of regional royalty Matt Grondin of the Skynyrd-bloodline and a very talented, if self-aware, axeman and vocalist. I witnessed Grondin share the stage with many a superstar, be it Gov’t Mule at Jazz Fest or hopping on with Dr. Claw and others throughout the magical Bear Creek Festival. His equity amongst giants is clear, and he continually brings these experiences back to the Inca Maya drawing board. On this night, the big leagues still seemed beyond their reach as their sound and energy was immediate engulfed by Dumpstaphunk’s considerable presence once they took the stage.Opening with an instrumental jam that served as both soundcheck and initiation, it was clear from jump that Dumpstaphunk came to play. De facto bandleader Ivan Nevilleand Neville Brothers bassist/all-around NOLA badass Nick Daniels laid down a stomp that set the raucous tone for an evening that remained happy and high energy throughout the nearly two hour set. Ivan’s keyboards and Daniels’ lyrical bass led the charge, but the supporting cast is equally essential to this gumbo equation. Birthday-boy Tony Hall, who co-pilots D-Phunk’s double pronged bass attack, was all smiles, all night as he laid down the rumble. Beneath this heavily armed assault, nephew Ian Neville‘s chicken scratch riddims and drummer Raymond Weber‘s relentless skin-bashing rounded out the band’s original sound. Tonight the focus would be on the core group, with few guests and even fewer distractions.
As mentioned, really no new ground was broken on this evening, just lengthy, stretched-out versions of D-Phunk jams weaving in and around one another. “Meanwhile,” with its particularly Creole soaked vocal harmonies and dismissive “FEMA” refrain, solidified an identity that is now never in question. The violently funky, gluttonous bottom of “Livin in a World Gone Mad” had the balcony-a-bouncin’ and the funk dripping down the walls of Freebird. Hall’s sadistic low end lent itself to an 808 as the beats pulsated through the floor. Ivan and Daniels wailed away in vintage form, frolicking through the annals of music history. “So Much Better” was a typical Crescent City groove, steppin’-and-a-stoppin’ with a syncopated rhythm and earsplitting drums, equal parts screaming rock and Chocolate City.
“Put It In The Dumpsta” is quickly becoming the Dumpstaphunk theme song, and tonight would be no different as this was the tune that got the people most involved. Another of the gritty D-Phunk originals, this song, with its catchy chorus and stutter-step groove, always does the body good, even if it may reach tongue-in-cheek levels on occasion. On this stage, on this evening, indeed it was mostly business; only ‘mostly’ because the band did partake in the cheesy “invite the chicks onstage to dance” routine during one song. I’ve seen everybody from KDTU to P-Funk to most recently Talib Kweli employ such silliness, and this only serves to distract from the music, despite how fly these honeys may have been. If this were WWF pro-wrestling, somebody could sue for ‘gimmick infringement.’Ian led his elders back on track with “So Much Better,” challenging Ivan to forget about his monitor problems and just get busy. Busy he got, delving into very Second Line-ish leads and animated vocals. Tony Hall and Raymond Weber, late of Trey Anastasio‘s 70 Volt Parade project, recognize the need for expansive jams as well as tailored songs. This dichotomy dogs even the most tasteful of players during their sonic journey. For sidemen, naturally a humble presence, patience is a virtue that is learned onstage through trial and error. On most occasions, the supporting cast “nailed it,” and although missteps were evident, this is the mark of a band that is truly alive. Dumpstaphunk is not content to just go through the motions; these guys take chances. At times that results in overplaying; however, as this band continues to gel and develop, expect more tasteful playing and “layin’ back in the cut.” Less notes and more feel can be asked from Hall and Weber, akin to the evolution of their former bandleader.
Keyboardist/vocalist/resident badass Ivan Neville’s mojo is considerable. Whether backing Keith Richards in the X-Pensive Winos or sitting in with a who’s who of two-plus musical generations, his swagger and style is wholly original, and simultaneously pays homage to those whom paved the path of funk and soul.The evening ended with Dumpstaphunk inviting Matt Grondin and others from Inca Maya onstage for a pair of covers that solidified the evening. War’s “Slippin Into Darkness” was shadowy, ominous and inspiring, with Grondin’s squealing leads perpetuating further exploration of this already classic vehicle. The omnipresent Sly Stone anthem “Thank You (fallettin me be mice elf)” closed out the Tony Hall birthday celebration, complete with a cupcake with a candle and a spirited workout that ranged from happy funk fun to dirty South sordid. Nearly every single breathing body that remained in the club was drenched in a dank mixture of gumbo funk and sweaty sizzle, a Po-boy potpourri that we didn’t want to wash off any time soon.
Dumpstaphunk :: 12.09.08 :: Freebird Live:: Jacksonville Beach, FL
JamBase | Sunshine State
[Published on: 12/18/08]
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