All Star Funk Jam At The Wisdome: Live Review

DeWayne “Blackbyrd” McKnight on guitar, center. Photo by Bob Lee for the LA Beat.

LA is both a good city and kind of a tough city to be in if you want to get a new scene happening. There’s no shortage of musicians, no shortage of audience, but real estate is expensive and venues that cater to the adventurous have a tendency to open and close with regularity. The Wisdome is a live music and art venue not quite like any that exists in LA right now, or really anywhere else I know of. And it is presently doing something that I have thought should be done for years: presenting live music in a planetarium environment, where the listener can stare at psychedelic projections on the roof, while a live band plays in front of them. With the right music, and the right visual artist, this combo can blow minds, and the All Star Funk Jam hosted by Fishbone’s Norwood with several of the members of Trulio Disgracias and multiple stellar guests in attendance, the venue realized a good amount of its potential.

Much of the evening was dedicated to songs by Funkadelic, with P-Funk veteran guitarist Dwayne “Blackbyrd” McKnight among the assembled players on stage. Opening with a blast through the guitar feature “Maggot Brain”, one could recline in chairs at the center of the floor, watch the spacey visuals above, and experience the sensation of sailing through outer space on a cloud of distortion. This is a pretty neat trick, a real brain massage that is not readily available at just any nightclub.

The band was fluid and loosey-goosey throughout, not unlike P-Funk itself. Legendary trombonist Fred Wesley was in the house for a handful of tunes that climaxed with a taut, thumping “Pass the Peas.” And Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, one of the most-recorded drummers of all time, made an appearance in which they seemed not have agreed on any mutually known tune ahead of time, instead jamming on the Purdie Shuffle while Trulio’s Lonnie Marshall laid down the bass line from the “what you say” part of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”. It was curious at first, but hey, the ticket promised a funk jam and that was most definitely a funk jam, an authentically funky one at that, once it got cooking.

Bootsy Collins was billed as the night’s “M.C.” but appeared only for a short blast near the end, taking the mic and leading the audience through a sing-along chant. His presence, even without a bass around his neck, is still magnetic enough to make a room warm up a few degrees, and his appearance was a real pleasure toward the close of a highly stimulating evening.

If the idea of attending a gig in a fully immersive A/V experience sounds appealing, I highly recommend checking out the Wisdome’s upcoming programs. I kind of want to program a micro-festival now, just to book it in there. It really would be an a good location for one, with two performance area domes and a runway with food and clothing vendors. Hopefully this venue remains open for a while and continues booking interesting, appealing and unique events like this. It’s just a good idea, combining music and visuals in the most intense way possible. Pink Floyd music would probably work great in this environment, and guess what, they do indeed have a Pink Floyd event on the calendar – Dark Side OF The Dome happens this Friday and Saturday. I think if you have a venue like that, you kind of have to have a Pink Floyd event on the calendar at all times.


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