Monday November 5th, on the eve of the 2012 presidential election, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, The North Mississippi All Stars, Nigel Hall & Eric Krasno of the Royal Family, Bela Fleck, DJ Questlove and guest stars joined together at the Highline Ballroom, creating a beyond epic night of music. Sponsored by HeadCount and Magic Hat Brewing Corporation the event was originally planned as a voter participation party, but after the occurrence of Hurricane Sandy, all net proceeds from the event went to City Harvest, a non profit organization dedicated to feeding those in need during this disastrous time in New York City boroughs. This concert was the last event, which HeadCount sponsored for the current election year, with aid from Blue Note Entertainment Group, CEG Presents, and Nolafunk.com.
The night began with an hour long set by The North Mississippi All Stars, comprised of brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson. Within an 45 minutes of the soulful, southern rock roots set, the North Mississippi All Stars were joined by Eric Krasno on Guitar, DJ Questlove on Drums, Nigel Hall on keys (who was an unlisted surprise to the audience), and Dumpstaphunk’s Nikki Glaspie on Drums. Their sounds meshed together into a purely rock and roll song, with wailing guitars and funky keys to keep the energy up. Cody and Luther Dickinson proved their abilities against Eric Krasno in a blues guitar solo battle on stage, and as the North Mississippi All Stars ended their set, Questlove and Hall stepped away from their instruments watching the Dickinson brothers finish their jam with Krasno and Glaspie.
Walking into the venue there were tables set up for VIP members, a private yet integrated partying section for all of the band members, and a stage filled with rows of amplifiers, guitars, basses, two drum sets, countless vocal microphones and an acoustic/electric keyboard set up. The crowd was an older audience for the most part, and full of HeadCount, City Harvest and Magic Hat volunteers and supporters. After the North Mississippi All Stars, the crowd dispersed only to quickly continue on dancing upon the start of Questlove’s DJ set. Questlove was spinning vinyl, along with mixing from his laptop, and he provided a diverse mix of music with flawless transitions as always. True to form, he wore a Questlove T-shirt, had a Donut Pin, and a comb in his fro. Starting with “We Will Rock You” and transitioning into old school Hip Hop, he covered a wide range of classic, danceable tunes.
Bela Fleck made his only appearance that night around 10 pm, and as the spotlight shined on him, he played a beautiful banjo solo, quieting the audience. Eric Krasno and Ivan Neville intently watched from their VIP area as Bela Fleck played his smooth jams, including a tune he picked up in Africa along his travels. He surprised the audience by ending his set in a fast paced manor, driving the crowd into a straight hoedown.
By 10:40 it was time for the headlining act; Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk. Dumpstaphunk proved once again that they are one of the best (and proudest) NOLA funk bands around, opening with a loud funky baseline, and immediately carrying a loud, ten minute long funky-rock jam known as “Do You Want My Love”. Peering backstage and standing next to the VIP Band Section, Questlove, Krasno, Nigel Hall and the Dickinson Brothers couldn’t take their eyes off of Ivan Neville and his Phunk. The audience themselves, simply could not stop dancing. Tony Hall wailed “Im In The Blues Lane” while playing the blues guitar, and provided lead vocals all night as Neville took a back seat to the band he created, allowing them to jam at times without him. The blues influences and heavy rock which Dumpstaphunk performed during this set showed their talent beyond levels of funk. However, “Put it in the Dumpstah” and their election appropriate Parliament Funkadelic cover of “One Nation Under A Groove” were clear audience favorites. Nigel Hall himself couldn’t help but run backstage and dance next to drummer Nikki Glaspie as the Tony Hall sang “Feet don’t fail me now!”
About an hour into Dumpstaphunk’s set the guest stars began to appear. Amy Helm was unable to make it to the event due to the lack of Gasoline within the Tri-State Area, and Andre Osborne canceled for unexplained reasons. However, the local artists who played with Dumpstaphunk proved to be better then I could have ever expected. Brooklyn locals Matt Owens (Trumpet) and James Otto (Saxophone) fed off of Neville’s funky keys creating an amazing horn section, and although it at times got lost amount the conglomerate of musicians on stage, the solo’s which they provided proved their worth. As the set continued, Nigel Hall replaced Ivan Neville on the keys, Neville hopped on the guitar, Tony Hall switched from electric bass to electric guitar, Eric Krasno jumped on stage and wailed guitar solos, and eventually the set became a free for all musical conglomerate.
The Dumpstaphunk-plus-guest-stars set continued for over three hours, as people hopped on stage and off stage, and as Neville and Hall called upon various musicians to join them I officially became blown away. The set featured a few planned songs, but mostly NOLA funk originals and unplanned jams. At one point they called upon over ten female audience members to get up on stage as Tony Hall serenaded them, saying “Shake It!” Benefits such as this are known to be particularly special in this way, but this show was unlike anything I have ever seen. Every musician there was partying together, running through the audience to the bar and VIP tables, hopping from backstage onto stage, and having just as much fun as every audience member was. Upon joining the musicians for a drink after the show, I was lucky enough to experience the close nature of these musician’s friendships. Despite the age, origin and racial differences amongst these musicians, Dumpstaphunk, along with members of Lettuce/Soulive and their guest stars, are truly a funking family, as they know how to read each other and feed off of each other’s talents and energies both on and off stage. As this show proved, there are no musicians comparable to them within the modern generation of music, and thanks to HeadCount and Magic Hat the sets were one of a kind, as their will likely never be this combination of people within a benefit setting again.
Although these musicians will not be all together, it is possible to see them individually in the upcoming months. Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk as well as members of the Royal Family are touring within the United States throughout the rest of Winter 2012, and both are performing at 2012’s Bear Creek Music Festival. North Mississippi All Stars continue their tour in Europe for the majority of November, while Bela Fleck can be seen in North Carolina and Georgia November 8-10th. DJ Questlove can be found at his Thursday night residency at the Brooklyn Bowl.
Photos Courtesy of HeadCount
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