Words & Images by: Tim Dwenger
Copper Sunsation :: 04.12.08 & 04.13.08 :: Copper Mountain Ski Resort :: Copper Mountain, CO
Let's make one thing perfectly clear: There ain't no party like a P-Funk party. Like it or not, it's true. George Clinton and his band of misfits have been dishing out the "Cosmic Slop" for nearly 40 years, and if their performance at Copper Mountain was any indication, they are still going strong. Sure, the cast of characters has changed a bit - Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell came and went along with many others - but Clinton still surrounds himself with very able musicians and several of the old timers are still funkin' it up with him.
A small portion of the band took the stage at about 2 p.m., just as the snowflakes were beginning to fall, and noodled their way through a couple of warm up jams to melt the frost from their fingers before the full force of the P-Funk storm hit us about 40 minutes later as the group blossomed to about 12 members. Leading the charge for the first 30 minutes was long time funkateer Garry "Starchild" Shider. Though Shider has been with P-Funk since the '70s and is known for his penchant for emerging on stage clad in only a diaper, the snow and freezing temperatures demanded more layers. "You may know me better in a diaper," he said, "but it's just too cold out here for that today."
Even as the snow increased in intensity, the crowd managed to get their groove on despite the thick layer of late season snow and ice under foot. P-Funk turned up the heat and Clinton himself finally emerged attired in a ski coat covered with golden imprints of cash. He remained onstage for much of the rest of the two and half hour performance, trading vocals with Shider and others as the band funked up a classic setlist that included "Up For The Down Stroke," "Flashlight," "Atomic Dog" and, of course, "Give Up The Funk."
One of the musical highlights of their set was the epic psychedelic guitar solo during "Maggot Brain." Featuring longtime P-Funk guitar hero, Michael "Kidd Funkadelic" Hampton, this song stretched well past the ten-minute mark. As he wailed and conjured up images of Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, much of the rest of the band took a break to warm up backstage before diving headlong into the rest of the performance. During the second half of the set, Clinton and company featured a few tracks from their most recent release, How Late Do You Have To Be Before You're Absent?, including the highly danceable "Bounce To This" and the rap "Somethin' Stank," which regrettably didn't feature Sativa, as it does on the album. None the less, the mountain crowd loved the message of the song and obliged by sending up plumes of the sweet smelling smoke that has fueled so many of these parties.
Carlos "Sir Nose" McMurray :: 04.12 :: Copper Mountain, CO
In addition to the obligatory drug references, the performance was full of sexual innuendo, largely fueled by Carlos "Sir Nose" McMurray, who emerged several times throughout the afternoon and seemed to take delight in flipping off the crowd and grabbing at his crotch as he undulated to the music in a shaggy white fur suit and wide brimmed hat. As the party raged on, the band seemed to have some kind of cosmic control over the snow fall as it seemed to come down harder and faster when the funk was raining down and then let up as the band slowed the pace. It was a unique experience to party with P-Funk in the snow and one that many in the crowd will not soon forget.
As so often happens in the Colorado springtime, Sunday morning dawned a completely different day. By mid-morning the temperature was in the fifties and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. As a result, the scene at the base of the mountain was totally different than Saturday. When the techno-jam fueled Lotus took the stage the dance floor was noticeably sloppy as the ice and snow were beginning to melt in the hot sun. There were shirtless guys and girls in tube and tank tops brushing shoulders with the hardcore skiers in their North Face and Mountain Hardware jackets.
Lotus :: 04.13 :: Copper Mountain, CO
Though there was a noticeable contingent of Lotus fans with their hands in the air there is no doubt that the band won over some new listeners as their energetic sound permeated the decks, patios and bars that surrounded the stage area. From the opener, "Suitcases," through the final note of "Sunrain," the band was firing on all cylinders. The rock solid rhythm section of Steve Clemens, Chuck Morris and Jess Miller provided the foundation for Luke Miller and Mike Rempel to stretch out and take the trancelike melodies to the next level. There were moments when they seemed to have it turned up to ten and then they pushed it a little bit further. This has always been a hallmark of a great jam band and Lotus is well on their way. They harnessed the energy of the crowd and fed off it for the duration of a 90-minute set that never let up for a minute.
Next, the Hassidic reggae of Matisyahu rocked the sun-soaked music fans who had crammed the base area to hear him perform. Despite his set being absolutely plagued by sound problems that sent shrill feedback echoing off the walls of nearby mountains, Matisyahu delivered an up-beat performance that perfectly complimented the weather. The hope and good vibes radiated by this man as he moves around the stage like an MC, spreading his music to the world, can't be denied.
Matisyahu :: 04.13 :: Copper Mountain, CO
The set featured many of Matisyahu's crowd pleasers but also featured guest musician Trevor Hall, who emerged midway through the set with his guitar in tow. The pair played a song they had co-written called "I Will Be Light" that will likely be featured on Matisyahu's next album.
As his set drew to a close, and with it the 2007-2008 ski season at Copper, I was struck by how perfectly this weekend had ushered in the summer festival season. With the snow and cold weather that we endured for P-Funk to the bright, warm sun that brought with it the trance-jam of Lotus and the reggae of Matisyahu, this festival perfectly represented the unpredictable weather of the mountains and Colorado's insatiable appetite for good music.
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