"It's something I take seriously—that responsibility to keep the knowledge and the history of the music going," says the local trumpet player. "We here in Portland are known for great indie-rock bands, and rightfully so—but there's much more going on here. We've got such a vibrant hip-hop scene, we've got a dope jazz scene, and we definitely have a great funk history and a great current scene. I'm proud to represent that."
The inaugural Funklandia, founded and curated by Newton, seeks to shine a light on the past, present and future of Portland's funk scene and its many talented players over the course of three funky-ass nights. Newton points to everything from Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly to jam bands and Bruno Mars as evidence of how far the tendrils of the form's influence have spread.
Beginning with a kickoff party at the 1905 on Friday and continuing Saturday and Sunday night at the Goodfoot, Funklandia boasts a deep lineup of local players and all-time funk legends. Saturday night will be a celebration of James Brown's 86th birthday, which Funklandia will commemorate with a mélange of talents delving into the storied catalog of the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, with the aim of matching the joyous Dionysian intensity of Brown's legendary live shows. Portlanders such as Sarah Clarke, Arietta Ward and Tyrone Hendrix will share the Goodfoot stage with funk iconoclasts like trombonist Kyle Molitor (Bootsy Collins) and legendary drummer Frankie Kash Waddy, known for manning the backbeat for James Brown, Parliament Funkadelic, the JBs and Bootsy Collins. One would be hard-pressed to find a better setting than the sweaty, basement dance floor of a venue named for the Godfather of Soul's "Get on the Good Foot" in which to celebrate JB.
Newton's own résumé—George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Lettuce, Karl Denson, Fred Wesley, Stevie Wonder, Jill Scott and many more—reads like a roll call of the best funk and soul acts going, making him the ideal curator for such an affair. We asked Newton to share his thoughts on some of the performers he's excited about ahead of this weekend most funky.
Arietta Ward of Mz. Etta's World
"Arietta is one of those talents that's impossible to ignore onstage. Music and performing is in her blood [Ward is the daughter of legendary Pacific Northwest pianist Janice Marie Scroggins], and she does more than sing—her performances are filled with her humor and character, and she tells it from the heart."
Stevie Ray Mays, aka Ultra Van Krome
"Stevie is an amazing guy who has played with everybody: Pleasure [the seminal '70s Portland funk band], Norman Sylvester, Linda Hornbuckle, Mel Brown—and Stevie just beat cancer, so we'll be celebrating that as well."
Frankie Kash Waddy
"Frankie is a legend. Straight up. He was the musical director for the three years I was in Bootsy Collins' band, is just an unbelievable drummer and is exactly the type of player this festival is meant to celebrate. Frankie and I have talked a lot about him and the other legends being more involved with the funk community, that next generation. I'm so excited for him to share his wisdom with the younger cats. "
Sarah Clarke of Dirty Revival
"I first met Sarah back when she was working at the local New Seasons and couldn't be prouder for how well she and Dirty Revival are doing. I know most of the band from PSU, and I actually recorded the horn parts for their new record, so things have really come full circle."
"Brian is another great local player who has played with everyone. Most folks will remember him from playing in the late, great Linda Hornbuckle's band. Brian is an example of another facet of what this festival is all about: showing off our great local talent and exposing new audiences to their work."
SEE IT: Funklandia is at the Goodfoot Lounge, 2845 SE Stark St., funklandia.com. 9 pm Saturday-Sunday, May 4-5. $15 per day, $25 for a two-day pass. 21+. The Funklandia kickoff party is at the 1905, 830 N Shaver St. 8 pm Friday, May 3. $10. All ages until 10 pm.