The Summit 2001 was yet another trial by fire in this ever evolving festival season, but the Roots and Funky Meters straight burned the place down with positively ripping, enthused sets early Saturday evening.
The Funky Meters set the tone for the head bobbin' and rump shakin' with an hour and half set that began at 6pm. George Porter Jr., fresh from his invigorating stint with Mike Clark's Prescription Renewal, laid down the warm bass lines with thirty years of Cajun authority, lighting up the crowd with a positive energy conducive to the jamband vibe. He exchanged laughs, smiles, and gritty groove grimaces with longtime partner in crime "Poppa Funk" Art Neville, whose animated keyboards and singing organs pushed the envelope of syncopation further. Psychedlic wunderkind Brian Stoltz etched licks to the stars with rollicking solos and Strat wizardry throughout the clasic Meters' catalogue, including "Born on the Bayou," the EPMD sampled "Just Kissed My Baby" and the ever present gem "Cissy Strut." By the end of their furious performance, the Funky Meters definitely challenged the validity and authenticity of so many "funk" jam bands that litter our scene.
The same can be said for the Roots, again an excercise in African American culture and authenticity. The first organic hip hop band, Illadelph's illest have been cooking up the body rock from scratch since their laid back debut "Organix" back in 1993. The Philadelphia collective has been known to rock out or just go through the motions, depending on the venue, crowd and vibe, so I was curious which legendary Roots crew would show up. After a bouncing "Dynamite" to open the show at about 8:15pm, during which bassist Hubb grooved violently and drummer/producer/Afro extraordinaire Ahmir ?uestlove Thompson locked into this baritone rumbling seemlessly, the tone was set for a true, gritty, Roots performance. As Black THought opened "I Used to Love Her, pt.II", we in the first few rows gave the "it sounds so nice" right back to him, and with a smile and a look of bewilderment,(he turned around to the crowd and said "oh, its like that, y'all know our shit!") The Roots knew the crowd was down, aware, and ready to participate in their unique hip hop experience. Hits like "You GOt Me" were balanced by early classics like "Proceed" and new ghetto jams like the Black Thought solo jam "Pussy Galore." Hype-man/human DJ Scratch really showed up former Roots beatbox Rahzel (who opened the show with an average set of beatbox and rhyme skill) with choice cuts, samples, and scratches via his larynx and a chrome microphone.
Hub and ?uest really showed love all night, breaking in down so it was danceable for the hippies yet still rugged and live enough for the B-Boys. I was amazed at how hard the Roots played, how much they cared, and the sweat and intestinal fortitude that went into their performance. They really sold themselves to a (predominantly caucasion) audience probably not there to see them (sans the three hundred of us up front.) Although the ferocity slowed a bit towards the end of the almost two hour jam, grinding to a halt during meaningless instrumental solos, the point was made and the statement heard. The Roots, illadelph's dynamite illest, are leaders of the Next Movement, proceeding progressively to the forefront of the music scene, no matter the audience, venue, or culture climate.
The Funky Meters and The Roots represented righteous for African American music at the Summit 2001, exceeding both the expectations of the audience and promoters. Sure, the String Cheese may have gotten people there, but it was the brothers, the OGs, the funk soul cats who kept it real and threw down the true school grooves that our scene was built upon. They built this garden for us, and at the Summit gave us one hell of a reminder.
One Love to New Orleans and Philadelphia, the most fertile of breeding ground.
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