The Funk Parade grows bigger every year. Co-founder Justin Rood expects 70,000 people to attend the daylong street fair, music festival and parade, although he admits he has underestimated turnouts in the past.
“The event kind of has a life of its own at this point,” Rood says. Along with co-founder Chris Naoum, he’s tasked with ensuring the parade has enough music and activities to entertain such crowds while also fulfilling its mission, “which is to have a good time but also bring people together to celebrate the things that we love about the city.”
Here’s what to expect when the parade takes over U Street NW on Saturday.
In addition to four sold-out classes on subjects ranging from drumming to go-go, the parade has offered glimpses into the main event with several music releases, including “Sounds of the City,” an EP by local musician-producer Kokayi. Featuring recordings by the public, Kokayi meant to create one song, but after submissions flooded in, he was inspired to create a track for each quadrant. (You can stream the full project on Soundcloud.)
“Some people were just like, ‘I’m recording my house or my motorcycle,’ ” he says. “Some people [recorded] the corner of Seventh and U. . . . People walked around Deanwood, so I got some stuff from Anacostia, stuff from Shaw, Uptown stuff — just stuff from everywhere.”
For his part, DJ Qdup released “Funk Parade 2016 Mix” on the streaming site Mixcloud. The mix tape features PSAs about the parade from artists on the roster, such as Kokayi, Rare Essence, Mustafa Akbar, Empresarios, Rufus Roundtree and Congo Sanchez.
Also, ’70s funk-soul musician Sir Joe Quarterman of “(I Got) So Much Trouble in My Mind” fame recorded a track with performers Fort Knox Five. Titled “Don’t Go,” it will be available on iTunes and Spotify on Friday.
This processional isn’t meant to be watched from the sidelines. Marching bands, drum lines and other performers take part in the parade; attendees are invited to jump in and dance or play along.
To engage participants who aren’t musically inclined, the Funk Parade team has created an app that turns iPhones into instruments. It was inspired by the final Boombox Walk hosted by brothers Hays and Ryan Holladay at the United States Botanic Garden in 2012. The electro-pop duo, known as Bluebrain, invited people to bring boomboxes, cue up their CDs, tapes or MP3 files and roam through the garden. Naoum described the result as “an ethereal soundscape.”
Local composer Alex Braden wrote the music for the Funk Parade’s version, while a team of designers at Deloitte Digital volunteered to create an app that could play eight different parts, each featuring a specific instrument. The app, called Boombox, syncs with users’ phones via Bluetooth so that everything stays on beat.
“It’s a way to interact with the parade and be your own little marching band,” Naoum says. “So everyone’s got the music, everyone’s got the script and you can just do your thing and dance in the parade.”
Among the several art events taking place during the parade is “Oral History/Oral Futures,” a series of repurposed phone booths spread throughout the U Street area. When participants pick up a receiver, they can listen to a clip from the D.C. Public Library’s U Street oral history archives or an interview conducted by artist Erik Moe for his Future Cartographic Society project.
“[Moe] interviewed people about what they think the neighborhood is going to be like 100 or 200 years into the future, and then he boiled those down into narratives and records the narratives,” Rood says. Participants will also be able to “call” the future and past and leave a message.
To go along with this year’s “Roll Your Funk” theme, a nod to the height of the D.C. style skating craze in the 1970s, local performance and digital artist Holly Bass is presenting “Birth of the City,” a choreographed show by classic style skaters that also pays homage to the District obtaining home rule in 1973.
Expect a lot of barbecue. Also on board: food from Urban Poutine food truck and Mason Dixie Biscuit Co. and beers from Atlas Brew Works and D.C. Brau. Vendors include Two Doxies, Afro-centric baby goods store AfroBaby and the T-shirt company On Us Tees.
Naoum’s excited that established bands such as Rare Essence, which is releasing its first studio album in more than a decade on Friday, will perform on the same day as younger acts such as Nag Champa. “We’ve got some brass bands that have been around the scene forever like the Spread Love Band and the Brass Connection, then you’ve got these young up-and-coming brass bands like Crush Funk Brass and Dupont Brass Bands,” Naoum says.
Also on the daytime roster are singer-songwriters Aaron “Ab” Abernathy and Reesa Renee, Greek American reggae-jazz artist Christos DC, the funk group Joe Keyes and the Late Bloomer Band, the R&B duo Boomscat and more.
In the evening, saxophonist Ron Holloway is performing at Solly’s; PitchBlak Brass Band is playing with the reggae-funk-soul group Nappy Riddem at U Street Music Hall; and Grammy-nominated performer Carolyn Malachi is doing a Black Broadway performance at Mulebone.
But the party won’t stop at 7 p.m. “Music will be going til 10 o’clock, and then after parties and funk DJs going late,” Naoum says. “There is music, free to the public, from noon until midnight.”
Saturday, Noon to 7 p.m.
U Street NW. funkparade.com.