No need to club-hop to find some of the best bands in Los Angeles. The Sunset Junction Street Festival is a chance to catch many of those acts under one Silver Lake sky. KCET guest blogger Daiana Feuer shares the local funk.
By Daiana Feuer
Funk has deployed a few emissaries to Los Angeles who revere and redefine the past, present, and in-between of West Coast music. Among the innovators, L.A. native DãM-FunK cultivated his own breed of modern funk at Funkmosphere, a weekly party he organized in Leimart Park. Rather than just DJ, the host with the most would sing along live on a microphone, at times improvising lyrics about whatever the crowd was doing.
He garnered a steady following hooked on his '80s-inspired grooves and cooing falsetto voice. Over a few years, DãM's signature sensual-cosmic style nourished a homegrown local music scene, spiraling into international acclaim between here and Singapore.
Dām began his career recording keyboard sessions for Solar Records producer Leon Sylvers III, known for working with Shalamar And The Whispers and The Sylvers. After spending some time inside the West Coast rap scene circa Ice Cube, Mack 10 and MC Eiht, Dām developed a unique modern sound that embraced vintage synths, pumping drums, and melodic chords. The gentleman formerly known as Damon Riddick carries the torch from early Prince into outer space with slick synthesized rhythms partly channelled by androids. He's also taken up playing with a full band called Master Blazter, appropriately enough, so he can indulge his keytar skills.
In good company, DãM-FunK shares the forefront with Stones Throw Records, a highly regarded local label that's established itself as an innovative funk and hip hop tastemaker. Also appearing at Sunset Junction, label-mate Mayer Hawthorne and The County's future-soul crooning in a nerdy package presents an alternative funk form. Think Motown wearing horn-rimmed glasses.
Like all L.A. music, current funk has expanded its boundaries between genres, time periods, and technology. To get a rounded dose of the boogie through the ages this weekend, catch The Whispers performing r&b classics "And The Beat Goes On" and "Rock Steady," as well as Evelyn Champagne King singing her 1978 disco hit, "Shame." Some more modern takes come from San Diego's world funk fusionists B-Side Players, and the Bitches Brew supergroup, which includes Miles Davis' nephew/drummer Vince Wilburn Jr. and J.Rocc from Beat Junkies, doing a jazz-rock-funk tribute celebrating the 40th anniversary and rerelease of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew.
Saturday, August 21st, 6:30pm, Bates Stage
Read Daiana's favorite songs about Los Angeles.