Woodstock '99 Report #5: George Clinton Jams With P-Funk At 58th Birthday Bash

In 30-year veteran's first Woodstock performance he mixed cosmic and psychedelic sounds with doo-wop.

ROME, N.Y. — George Clinton celebrated his 58th birthday late Thursday night by jamming with his legendary funk band, Parliament-Funkadelic, at Woodstock '99.

Thousands of fans gathered at the festival's emerging-artists stage — a converted airplane hangar — to listen to the band, including bassist Bootsy Collins, engage in its trademark thick-funk jams that thunder as much as they shake. The songs were not as important as the sounds — a cosmic blend of echoing bass, psychedelic keyboards and doo-wop-style backing vocals.

Clinton sported birthday regalia, wearing a red beret, a black- blue-and-red space-print jacket and multicolored hair that reached down his back. He prowled the front of the stage and clapped his hands as the band played.

Clinton is scheduled to perform his official Woodstock set with Parliament-Funkadelic at 8:35 p.m. Friday (July 25) on the festival's west stage. Though his career spans more than 30 years, this is his first Woodstock performance. He is famous for merging R&B with acid rock to create songs such as

"Mothership Connection" (RealAudio excerpt)

and "Tear the Roof Off the Sucker (Give Up the Funk)," both recorded by Parliament. He has also released albums under the Funkadelic name, as well as with such aggregate bands as the P-Funk All-Stars.

The jams lasted as long as 20 minutes, and the fans maintained their interest throughout. David Quilichini, 20, traveled with four friends from Grimshaw, Alberta, a distance of more than 4,000 miles, for Woodstock '99.

He said he enjoyed his first P-Funk show while tripping on LSD for the first time.

"He got the crowd going into the funk," Quilichini said. "Sh-- went crazy, man."

"A George Clinton funk party is ceaseless," said Melissa Alonzo, who is producing a VH1 documentary on Clinton. A highlight for Alonzo, she said, was the set's mothership gag, in which a miniature spaceship is let down by a rope to hang over the stage.

As out-there as Clinton might have been, the scene around 1,000 feet west of the stage exceeded even his level of eye candy.

Members of the Woodstock Peace Patrol made 10,000 yellow Frisbees available to fans. Within minutes, the air in front of the Independent Film Channel's movie-festival screening area was filled with flying discs, scattering across the sky like a flock of yellow birds.

Children, teenagers and young adults screamed and ran through the lot, collecting Frisbees and throwing them as hard as they could. Others used

the Frisbees for protection as people around them were struck in the face, head, ribs, shins, arms and ankles. Many laughed. Most smiled. Gabriel LaPierre, 21, of Madison, Wis., noted the broken Frisbees around him as he chucked one and cradled five in his left arm, preparing to throw. "This definitely has a finite sense to it," he said

A less active participant, Nick Hockey, 20, of Ellisburg, N.Y., who had just seen the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" at the Independent Film Festival, seemed awestruck by all the Frisbees. "This is one of the most amazing things I've seen," he said.