Four ... Bernie Worrell at Steeps Restaurant in Park City,
The story continues in the clean air of the Wasatch Mountains at the
foot of the main ski hill at Park City Resort, in the now-demolished
Gondola Building. On the last night of the 1999 Sundance Festival,
a REAL party was going on ...
view of the slopes at the Park City Resort
morning after Bernie Worrell's show at The Ritz, I started working
on another series of digital portraits.
The Woo Warriors had all been open and friendly with me, so
I wanted to make a gift for each of them.
I went back on the Web to get shots of spaceships, stars, and
recent gig pictures from Dave Brooks' remarkable website. Dr.
Brookenstein seemed to review almost every P-Funk related
show within a day's drive of New York. His descriptions were
vivid, his criticisms were well-reasoned, and he usually posted
some decent photos of the musicians in action.
It may seem dull to report that I spent six hours making and
printing the original collages you see illustrating these pages,
but that's what I did during that foggy gray day in Salt Lake
Around 5 O' Clock I called my neighbor Sherri Berg to say that
I'd join her party at the restaurant, rather than drive up with
them. An hour later I shaved, showered, gathered all the prints
together, and put on my black clothes -- the official clothing
color of Sundance Festival goers, topped by the P-Funk 1
always refreshing to drive out of the midwinter muck of the
Salt Lake Valley. The cold, clear night skies above the inversion
layer were lit by a waxing moon, and the temperature was still
bearable without a heavy coat, but I kept one in the car anyway.
Skiffs of snow could breeze through at any time, and the elevation
was close enough to 8000 feet to feel the cold all the way
to your bones.
I parked my car and ran up three flights of stairs into Steeps
as Bernie finished the sound check. Vinyl were playing
at a Sundance party that night after the Award Ceremony was
over, so the evening belonged to the Woo Warriors. I renewed
my acquaintences from the previous evening, and started giving
out mounted versions of the musicians' portrait/collages.
I kept an unmounted copy, and asked each one for their autograph.
I brought along this beautiful free-flowing silver pen, but
it wasn't the easiest thing to write with, as you can see
from the runny writing all over this page.
Gabe Gonzales and Moon Ruben both commented on my P-Funk
"This is the way Hampton wears it,"
I said, "Whatever else, this shirt is definitely ON THE
ONE!" I looked down, scratched my head, and added, "Or
is THE ONE definitely on this shirt?"
Whatever -- it made the two laugh.
Gabe Gonzales knew George Clinton from childhood. P-Funk cover
artist Ronald "Stozo the Clown" Edwards used to
baby-sit for his parents. He had played in the P-Funk All-Stars
when they recorded Dog Star (Fly On), and he had his OWN band
Bass" McPhearson was as bright and friendly as could be.
I have praised her musical skills already, and will do so at
any time. I finally spelled your name right, Donna, and digitally
moved your nice words down onto the image.
Michael "Moon" Ruben has the surest, lightest touch
I've ever seen on an electric guitar. He also CONCENTRATES to
a degree which is entertaining in itself, as his fingers do
all the moving.
started with Greg Fitz calling the crowd to action with the
classic spoken introduction to Make My Funk The P-Funk.
He keyed-in the horn parts through the magic of Midi, and
the dance floor filled up. Several hundred people came out
to see them, and they could not resist the urge to move their
bodies to some of the wickedest grooves on the planet -- played
LIVE by one of the original composers. What George Clinton
puts onstage with twenty-five musicians, Bernie Worrell can
duplicate with six -- and he proved it that evening.
It's easy to tell about what I saw, but to accurately convey
what I heard is tricky indeed. Judie Worrell asked me to post
a review, and send it to her publicist (It has long since
dropped off the Web) -- but those things are more of
a stylized way of selling a show, or convincing others to
see somebody perform, if you prefer, than communicating the
effect of all that fine music as it resonated through that
huge wooden building and touched even the most oblivious apres-skiers.
Two out of every three people wore polar fleece, and they
stripped away layers of the stuff as the bass-driven rhythms
knocked off succeding layers of social inhibitions.
I met another DJ from KRCL-FM who I had known ten years previously
when he did the Saturday Reggae show. All I could remember
was that his name was John, and all he could remember was
that I was named Mike -- that was cool. His wife was amused
about that exchange. I asked him if he could remember the
name of the instrumental that Bernie was playing at the moment,
but he couldn't quite place it until his wife laughingly shouted
out (along with the Woo Warriors) Burning Down The House!
watching for Chris Snarr to show up. He'd left early the night
before with his bandmate Tosh Brown, since they had wanted
to hear Vinyl play. Chris and Tosh led their own Funk
band Slapdown separately from the locally popular Disco
Drippers. No one had a surer ear for that kind of music
than Chris, so he wanted to see what the Woo Warriors were
like on their own.
Besides the bar, Steeps had a water cooler station near the
entrance at the top of the stairs. I was recharging and watching
for Snarr, when a young couple came in: "That music!"
said the lady. "It's P-Funk!" said the gentleman.
They looked at me and asked "Who's that?" "Bernie
Worrell, from P-Funk and Bootsy's Rubber Band," I said.
The lady almost shrieked as she said, "We saw them in
The gentleman said, "We're here on our honeymoon."
I said, "You came to a great place for it," and
they both nodded -- actually they started dancing immediately
as Fitz was preaching:
People whatcha doin' out there -- Standing on the verge of
gettin' it on ?! (Baby, gettin it on-nn!)
Brenda "BJ" Nelson was irrepessible and fun -- a terror
pool table, and a strong-voiced lead singer on the stage.
of Putting On The ONE follows NEXT: Read about Maceo Parker,
Greg Boyer, and Rodney "Skeet" Curtis.
Gabe Gonzales drew this Doctor Funkenstein for me.
Worrell wearing his Grand Piano robes.
The last night of the tour, his Woo Warriors concert from
Santa Clara was streamed over the Internet -- both video
and sound. After Burning Down The House, guitarist
Buckethead joined in for The 7 Laws of Woo from
Praxis' 1st album, and I was listening!
the night continued under the moon and stars -- I danced with
Sherri Berg, and a whole lot of strangers of different ages
-- from sixtyish to sixteenish. I stepped outside every so
often to admire the snow and feel the tall structure shaking
in time to Bernie's pounding music.
I finally spotted Chris Snarr sitting at a table with a broad
smile across his face. He had arrived during Standing On
The Verge, so he experienced the best half of the show.
Bye and bye ... the concert ended with one of
my favorite jams -- Night of the Thumpasaurus People.
It consists of two sections -- a slow part that builds up
on a lyric largely consisting of variations of Ga Ga Goo
Ga -- followed by a MIGHTY bass riff -- co-created by
Bernie and his musical brother Bootsy Collins, which mutates
and melds into unspeakably moving sonic textures.
As the crowd thinned out, I continued my little autograph
party with the remaining Woo Warriors. The young married couple
stopped by and visited while Greg Fitz worked a clog out of
the silver pen. He was thrilled to hear how they had seen
him play with Bootsy's Rubber Band at an outdoor show the
previous summer on Lake Michigan.
As Steeps closed it's doors, Bernie and Judie summoned me
downstairs to finish my business, and chat some more as they
were packing to leave. Bernie's costume bag weighed almost
80 pounds, but it was fun helping with it because I got to
see his favorite grand piano robe up close -- the one in his
portrait. (See detail at left.)
Conversations went on until late. Judie
Worrell asked about the interstate highway to Seattle. I told
her how much better it was than the icy roads in Colorado,
where they had suffered a minor collision near Durango. Judie
was relieved -- twenty years earlier a P-Funk crewman lost
his life because of a winter accident in the Rockies. Their
own mishap brought back some bad memories, and she was glad
the worst was over.
They would convoy with Vinyl all the way to the Seattle gig
two nights later. Together they worked their way down the
West Coast, and even performed with George Clinton in San
Francisco, along with their friend Dawn Silva, from the original
Brides of Funkenstein duo.
images by Michael Evans
Pictures were drawn
from memory with aid of photos.
alumni and Woo Warriors are primarily montaged from photographs by David
Brooks. Dr. Funkenstein's drawing is by Gabe Gonzalez.