The concert tent was full shortly after 4 p.m. By performance time at 6 p.m., the crowd had started chanting, “We want the funk!” Even the guy in the Hawaiin print shirt was waving his “tear the roof off the sucka” hands.
By then, nearly 3,000 people had spilled out onto the Mall awaiting the start of the National Museum of African American History and Culture “Bring Back the Funk” concert, featuring George Clinton, Meshell Ndegeocello, Ivan Neville and Dumpstaphunk on the first day of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
And, just to prove we’re all just one big nation under the groove, Ndgegeocello opened her set by dedicating a James Brown classic to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).
“Brother, we can’t quit until we get our share.
“Say it loud/I’m black and I’m proud!”
As the crowd hollered back and swayed, young deaf interpreters stuck out their chests and sold it to Chocolate City, signing signature lyrics like “we want our funk uncut!”
Lonnie G. Bunch, founding director of the museum, took the stage and, noting the cranes and bulldozers behind him, called it a new day on the Mall. “Bring back the funk!!” he yelled. “I bet you’ve never heard a director of the Smithsonian say that!”
The concert was part of a year-long celebration of the museum’s Feburary groundbreaking, and the stage featured a super-sized picture of the Parliment-Funkadelic “Mothership,” the iconic stage prop of the legendary funk collective which the museum acquired last year. It will be part of the museum’s permanent music exhibition when it opens in 2015.