By Jenna Lazenby
The Godfather of Funk will descend on Elmwood Park this Saturday for the second annual TAP Hope Fest, a music and Independence Day celebration. George Clinton and his band Parliament Funkadelic, or as some refer to them, the “Funk Mob” because of the sheer size of the group, will take the stage at 7:30.
The 75 year-old Clinton, known for flamboyant and electrifying performances, is one of the most highly revered names in music, and is credited with pioneering the R&B genre. While the band is touring in release of its latest album, “First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate” one can expect to hear a number of older hits and hopefully even pay a little “Groovallegiance.” After all, Clinton embodies that motto: We are all “One Nation Under a Groove.”
What makes Saturday’s lineup extra funky is that all the proceeds benefit a local community organization, Total Action for Progress (TAP). While Clinton is the main attraction, festival goers can also delight in a little modern bluegrass and jazz earlier in the day. At 6:00, Richmond saxophonist, and previous studio musician for the hit show “The Cosby Show,” James “Plunky” Branch will take the stage. Prior to that, Look Homeward, a band out of the piedmont area of North Carolina will play at 4:30.
Alex Bingham, bassist for Look Homeward, and a Roanoke native, couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity to play prior to Clinton. “The interplanetary sounds, extraterrestrial style, and inarguably elastic groove of Parliament-Funkadelic is something that has truly grown to be a part of who I am,” Bingham said in an email. “As soon as I picked up a bass I learned as many James Brown and P-Funk lines as I could, and that unconsciously became the roots of my bass playing. It was always Bootsy, Bernie, and Clinton for me. To be able to share the same stage as those giants in my hometown is truly living a dream.
About the lineup, TAP President / CEO Annette Lewis said, “We wanted our second Hope Fest to be bigger and better than ever. That’s why we decided to have various genres of music. There’s a little something for everyone, bluegrass, jazz and of course, the FUNK. The Funk is different from everything else, and having George Clinton at Elmwood is very exciting for the community.”
While having the opportunity to see a legend like Clinton in Downtown Roanoke is indeed exciting, what’s also important is the difference that TAP makes in our local community. TAP offers more than thirty programs that provide assistance and guidance to children, individuals and families. From educational programs, to career development and business assistance, to housing and home repair services, TAP has been fighting the war on poverty in the Roanoke Valley for more than fifty years.
“TAP is a comprehensive agency with programs that range from the early development years all the way through adulthood, Lewis noted. Through our programs children are more prepared for school, and adults can gain the skills they need to be self sufficient and can become better equipped to be employable citizens.”
In addition to those services, TAP also offers aid to domestic abuse victims. Lewis shared the story of a young “Mrs. D” who arrived in Roanoke a few years ago with small children after fleeing from domestic violence. TAP was able to help her get on her feet and enrolled in a certified nurse’s aid training program. Mrs. D earned her degree, found employment, and was able to eventually get her own home through Youth Build, a partnership program TAP has with Habitat for Humanity. “We link people with other resources to help them stand firm on their own. She and her children are safe and growing. Her life is better because of our agency,” said Lewis.
On Saturday, in between the music, festival goers can visit the TAP booth to find out more about the important work that TAP does and learn about additional opportunities to get involved. The combination of music and philanthropy is a win-win for both TAP and the community.
On a sad note, virtuoso keyboardist Bernie Worrell, a major contributor to the legacy of P-Funk, who also worked with the Talking Heads, passed last Friday after a battle with lung cancer. In an issued statement, Clinton noted that, “the world is a little bit darker and less funky without Bernie in it.”
In a year that’s taught us that there isn’t always a “next time” with iconic musicians, the time is now to get your tickets to see the legendary George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. You can purchase your tickets online or get them at the gate. Just remember, getting your funk on will cost $10 more if you don’t purchase your ticket before Friday afternoon at 2:00.