It was a seemingly drab weeknight in March when Bend got a long awaited taste of New Orleans funk. The show was an appearance by Galactic, who were joined by a pair of fire-breathing horn players, and the Domino Room was packed with wall-to-wall with revelers going b-a-n-a-n-a-s for the all-instrumental band from the Crescent City.
That March show wasn't an isolated incident. Remember the massive crowd that got down to the Dirty Dozen Brass Band on a cold February night at the 2009 Winterfest? There was also a spirited Trombone Shorty show out in Sisters as part of the Sisters Folk Festival's winter concert series. Now, there's even an all-funk festival coming to Bend this summer at the Century Center, The Volcanic Funk Fest (July 30 and 31), headlined by yet another New Orleans act, Big Sam's Funky Nation, including several other Southern-inspired acts.
This doesn't exactly make perfect sense. Why would a community about 2,000 miles from New Orleans be populated by such a heavy contingent of funk lovers? Who knows, but it doesn't look like Central Oregonians are at all ready to ease up on their love for horn-drenched, dance-encouraging, party-friendly music. Case in point: The Bite of Bend, which for the past few years has brought some of the best free music of the summer to downtown Bend (anyone else remember last year's Rubblebucket/March Fourth Marching Band back-to-back explosion?), has booked Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk to the annual food, drink and music festival.
Dumpstaphunk is Ivan Neville's New Orleans-based all-star band of well-known funkateers that has been heating up festival stages since the early 2000s. The band has long served as an outlet for Neville's most raging funk sounds and while it was originally only featured as a showcase band at big festivals, Dumpstaphunk has recently become more of a priority for Neville and the other all-star players in his Parliament-goes-deep-South collective. This summer alone, the band is slated to appear at High Sierra Music Festival, play a few dates on the Dave Matthews Caravan, and appear at more boutique festivals, like our own Bite of Bend.
Neville, the son of soul and R&B crooner Aaron Neville, spent the late '80s and '90s playing in a number of high-profile bands, and even appeared as the keyboardist on a pair of Rolling Stones records, while also contributing to his dad's recordings. In addition, Neville laid down four well-received solo albums during this time as he continued to tour with the likes of Keith Richards' solo band, Bonnie Raitt and others. But by 2002, Neville was ready to get back out on his own, and with his own handpicked band, which would include his cousin, Ian Neville (who also plays in The Funky Meters). Dumpstaphunk was born.
Again, the band existed for several years before it was considered a serious project for its members. But soon, the band was beginning to be considered one of, if not the top funk band in New Orleans, and Dumpstaphunk became more of a full-time job than a festival-friendly all-star band. Now, Neville and company have solidified a sound that takes all the best sounds known to come out of the Crescent City jazz and dance clubs. The band's sound is a mix of old-time soul influences and a newer, brighter tone that has inspired acts like the aforementioned Trombone Shorty and other bands that are able to get crowds - even those consisting of those who've never even heard a single Dumpstaphunk track - dancing throughout their set. In short, the band sounds pretty much exactly like their name suggests. It's a rough-and-tumble, sometimes rowdy, but always energetic take on funk music. Those who need a sampling of this party-in-a-can that manifests itself on stage should check out the band's track, "Livin' In a World Gone Mad," which shows the band at full force.
It's probably not important to ponder why we love funky music so much around these parts. You don't need to question it - but you should be dancing to it.