The Funk Parade: What to see and do at Saturday’s festival on U Street

The Funk Parade began, as the quirkiest ideas always do, in a dream.

Justin Rood woke up one day a few years ago -- in a rowhouse at 13th and U streets NW, he notes, that reportedly once belonged to Duke Ellington -- with a vision of drummers, dancers and revelers streaming across the thoroughfare outside his door.

This procession "came down U Street, and people came out of their houses and brought their kids out, and joined in this musical parade," Rood, a District native, recalls. "I thought it was an amazing vision, and I didn't understand why it didn't exist already."

Adams Morgan and H Street NE have festivals, he points out. But U Street, arguably the heart of Washington's culture and musical traditions, has no such tradition that lures neighbors out into the streets and fills the air with music. This weekend, Rood will see his dream come to life.


Cheick Hamala Diabate will perform at Tropicalia on Saturday night, as a free music festival takes over a dozen venues . (Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post)

He teamed with Chris Naoum of Listen Local First to launch the neighborhood's first Funk Parade, a daylong affair that celebrates not just funk music, he says, but "whatever makes you want to dance, be around other people and makes you feel like the world is all right." Bring your own djembe or tambourine, don a spangly outfit, play a flute and prepare to get sweaty: The participatory affair will be as free-form as the Meridian Hill Park drum circle.

The parade will step off on Vermont Avenue NW on Saturday at 5 p.m., but it's preceded by a day of events on U Street and followed at night by a free music festival, for which a dozen U Street venues will open their doors for free concerts from popular local bands. Below, find everything you need to know, including a map of the parade route, and a schedule of events.

The Funk Parade day fair: Noon- 5 p.m.

The family-friendly part of the day will features performances by Funk Ark, Yamomanem Jazz, workshops and more across U Street.   Highlights from the schedule include the M.A. Winter Performance area presented by Capital Bop (1436 U St. NW. Noon-5 p.m.)  and the African American Civil War Memorial Museum Performance Area (10th and U streets NW, Noon-5 p.m.), where you can find bands such as Funk Ark and street performers lined up by the Kennedy Center. But the festival will also take over neighborhood institutions such as the U Street flea market and the District Flea (945 Florida Ave. NW), where flea-goers can hear live music and also recharge with food and beers.
U Street NW between Ninth and 16th Streets NW. 

The Funk Parade: 5-7 p.m.

Only one thing didn't quite match up with Rood's original vision, not that he's complaining: The request for the Funk Parade to shut down U Street was declined by the city. So the U Street procession will instead bang and holler its way across V Street before winding down for the night at Ben's Chili Bowl - in some ways, the neighborhood's de facto capital.  Bring your own instruments and join in. Download a map of the route below.
The parade steps off at Vermont Avenue NW and U Street at 5 p.m.

The music festival: 7-10 p.m.

U Street Music Hall, Patty Boom Boom, DC9, Liv and several other venues will open their doors for free for Funk Paraders to catch bands including including Black Masala, Elikeh and the city's most successful go-go act, E.U.  

The full lineup:
U Street Music Hall: Sugar Bear & EU,  Nappy Riddem, DJs Fort Knox Five & Q Dup
Tropicalia: Cheick Hamala Diabate, Backbeat Underground, Joe Keyes “The Late Bloomer” and The Late Bloomer Band
Solly’s: Flashband Project
DC9 Nightclub: Elikeh, Black Masala, and Sol Powered All Stars
Patty Boom Boom: Lucky Dub, Kickoman
Liv: Clones of Funk
The Brixton: Aztec Sun, Beyond Modern
Jojo Restaurant and Bar: The Good Thing
Busboys and Poets: Live! From Busboys: Women of Funk, with performances by B. Steady with DJ Pinstriped Rebel.

 

Lavanya Ramanathan is a professional eater/drinker/thinker for Weekend and the Going Out Guide. University of Texas. Northwestern University. Rap fan.
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