The Funk Parade began, as the quirkiest ideas always do, in a dream.
A few years ago, Justin Rood woke up — 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 along 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 into the streets and fills the air with music.
This weekend, Rood will see his dream come to life. 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, but also, he says, “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, with the Ballou High School Marching Band and Batala Percussion Band leading the way for a group that could be sizable or small, depending on who turns up.
The parade will step off on Vermont Avenue NW on Saturday at 5 p.m., but there are reasons to go early and stay late: Rood’s vision has broadened to include a daytime block party, which, with an assist from the Kennedy Center, will corral street performers to entertain families. And then there’s the highlight: the evening’s music festival, for which a dozen U Street venues will open their doors for free concerts from popular local bands, including Black Masala, Elikeh and even one of the city’s most successful go-go acts, E.U.
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.
Solly’s U Street Tavern
1942 11th St. NW.
Flashband is a project that pairs musicians in impromptu bands for quickly rehearsed sets that harness the unexpected quality of a flash mob. For the Funk Parade, seven bands, each tasked with playing a funktastic set, will play plenty of favorite covers and one original song apiece.
7 :30 p.m.
1940 Ninth St. NW.
D.C.-based brass octet Black Masala, which released its first album this year, kicks off the night with boisterous, brassy sound that taps a broad set of global influences. If you’re smart, you’ll stay a while and catch the club’s headliner, Elikeh, veterans of the local Afropop scene.
U Street Music Hall
1115 U St. NW.
No need to brush up on your go-go; you already know E.U.’s notorious party track, “Da Butt,” a shout-out to a pre-twerking but equally rump-shaking dance move. The song, featured in the 1988 flick “School Daze,” netted the band a brief moment in the national spotlight in the ’80s, making them one of the District’s most successful go-go acts.
2001 14th St NW.
Cap your night on the sweaty dance floor at Tropicalia, which will showcase the jaw-dropping talent of Malian griot star Cheick Hamala Diabate, whose fingers flit effortlessly — and speedily — over the ngoni, a guitarlike instrument. Afterward, stick around for a dance party DJ’d by house favorites Fort Knox Five.
Steps off at Vermont Avenue NW and
Day fair: Noon-5 p.m. Performances by Funk Ark, Yamomanem Jazz, workshops and more. U Street NW between Ninth and 16th streets NW.
The Funk Parade: 5-7 p.m. Steps off at Vermont Avenue and U Street NW.
Music festival: 7-10 p.m. U Street Music Hall, Patty Boom Boom, DC9, Liv and several other venues.
Information: All Funk Parade events are free. Full schedule at www.funkparade.com.
The Funk Parade day fair: Noon-5 p.m. Features performances by Funk Ark, Yamomanem Jazz, workshops and more.
U Street NW between Ninth and 16th Streets NW.
Parade: 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Steps off at Vermont Avenue NW and U Street.
Music festival: 7-10 p.m.
U Street Music Hall, Patty Boom Boom, DC9,
Liv and several other venues.
The Funk Parade is free.