By Andy J. Gordon
The 2013 Long Beach Funk Festival took place in the heart of downtown on a beautiful July day. This is the first year that the festival has charged admission so expectations were high for an enhanced entertainment event. The festival ran all day and musical acts performed on two stages separated by The Promenade and Broadway. Throughout the venue, vendors were selling food, beverages and a variety of wares.
While many festival goers braved the midday heat and enjoyed several funk performances, the highly anticipated acts did not hit the stages until the latter part of the day. The Blackbyrds set got off to a difficult start caused by sound problems. Once those got worked out, the band’s brand of old school R&B with a jazz-funk backbone had the crowd bouncing. The slowly setting sun and hot tunes kept things toasty throughout their performance.
The highlight of the festival was the show by legendary keyboard master Bernie Worrell. The Bernie Worrell Orchestra played a tight set of new and old funk. Worrell is best known for his work with Parliament-Funkadelic and The Talking Heads. Most of the set consisted of songs from the new Bernie Worrell Orchestra album BWO is Landing. Worrell’s new band is extremely talented and played with an infectious energy. The Talking Heads’ “Take Me To the River” along with the new tunes that sound like old PFunk classics had the crowd dancing and singing along.
A very entertaining fireworks show preceded the set by singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Shuggie Otis During Otis’ set, he stuck to guitar and singing with his strong band supporting the performance. Members of the Blackbyrds sat in for a few songs and the show concluded with loud applause from the crowd.
The Long Beach Funk Festivalwas a great way for families, couples, hipsters, and especially funk fans to spend a summer day in the city. The high quality production and overall vibe of the event justified the quite reasonable entry fee. Keep an eye out for next year’s festival. I’m sure that this year’s success will encourage the organizers to bring in more quality bands and produce an even bigger event.