Friends of the P knew what to expect at the Sunset Station show on Sunday, October 27: the bounce, the boogie, the extended jams, the scatopsychological testification, the rotation of what seemed an army of musicians (reportedly about 25) across the stage, from mic to mic, and through multiple instruments. And if the security at Sunset prevented the usual bevy of skinny white girls from grinding their yonkers into a beer-gutted, natty-dreaded black man in a diaper, still no one escaped unaltered.
Yet here were two semi-unexpected things at this, my third witnessing of the P-Funk All-Stars at play:
One, I have never before engaged in spontaneous, unprompted harmony with the audience. As we swung into "swing down, sweet chariot," a woman behind me took up the alto above the tenor line I sorta land on when "Mothership Connection" comes on my stereo. Later, as Dr. Funkenstein led his choir gently into the refrains of "Give up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucka)," the crowd was there before even being asked, and we chanted the whole damn song with barely a cue.
The second thing I always forget about this band of many bands — who even before spawning hip-hop had evolved way past their own R&B origins — is that they smelt some of the heaviest metal around. Listen up, ye Kiss Army, ye guitar-gods-in-waiting: If you wanna know true, down-low heavy, put down that anemic Adema crap for a second and get your cracker asses down to the next P-Funk show. Watch amazed as five guitarists, who have been doing this since before Zakk Wylde could pronounce pentatonic, rip your faces off with sheer speed, shiny guitars, and amps that go to 11.
Thither goeth the funk, the dirty blues, the space jazz. And hither, as we flailed through a medley of "Let the Good Times Roll" and "Whole Lotta Shakin'," cameth rock 'n' roll, the great leveler. And then, in a stunning finale, was "Maggot Brain," the last century's "Moonlight Sonata."
Here, in three hours, was the great arch of Western music.