George Clinton Drops Some Funk on Outdoor Retailer

JanSport's annual Shake and Bake concert is one of best ever
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JanSport's annual Shake and Bake concert is one of best ever

The Black-Eyed Peas, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, the Roots -- over the years, there have been some mighty fine performances for attendees of the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City. And many of them have been presented by JanSport, which has put on its summer Shake and Bake concert as long as I can remember. It's a cool gift to the industry by the California-based pack company, and to Big City Mountaineers, which again this year was the charity that benefited from the ticket sales. But I think the real credit should go to Skip Yowell, the company founder, longtime entertainment director, and all-around vibemaster. He's the epitome of old-school outdoor cool, and he's still making sure we hear good music despite a serious illness and hip replacement in recent years. If you ever get a chance, buy him a few Buds and sit back for some of the best stories of the early days of packmaking and American mountaineering.

Anyway, after a long day of walking the aisles at the Salt Palace convention center (more than 25,000 steps according to one Backpacker editor's pedometer), there's nothing better that letting it all hang loose on the dance floor. And George Clinton DID NOT DISAPPOINT. Parliament hit the stage in full funkiness, with as many as 13 musicians on stage at once, plus a tall, half-naked guy in fake fur pimp gear with a long, fake plastic nose. (Side note: A well-known PR gal at one point got up on stage and danced with The Nose, as he was called, and danced dirty. Eventually, she wound up in a sandwich between George and The Nose, her eyes wide and the crowd howling.)

One of the five or six guitarists in Parliament was dressed in a towel diaper; another did a turn in full James Brown polyester suit and bling. But while the costumes and spectacle that Parliament is known for was out in full force, it was the music that really impressed. Alternately soulful, bluesy, hard-rocking, and mellow -- with a X-rated rap interlude from George's granddaughter -- the band put on an amazing musical performance. Layers of sound washed over us in the small Port of Call bar, with trumpet volleys responding to Claptonesque guitar solos.

The highlight: A 20-minute jam that started in a slow Barry White groove, worked into a syncopated lather that had the dancefloor quaking, segued into a duet between George and a husky-voiced female backup singer, and ended with a melody- and rhythm-shifting fusion-rock onslaught. Truly a funkadelic experience, one that's still ringing in my ears this morning.

--Jonathan Dorn