Inaugural funk festival comes to the Feather River
“There’s a lot more funk out there than people would know.”
Spencer Rouse would know. The popular Chico deejay spins old-school funk vinyl on his long-running Wax On radio show on KZFR 90.1 FM (Thursdays, 3-5 p.m.) and he’s one of the regular house deejays at Duffy’s funky, sweaty Wednesday night disco-dance parties.
Sitting and chilling on a recent summer afternoon at the Naked Lounge downtown, he waxed on about the upcoming For the Funk of It festival, a three-day, dance party/campout that he and co-producer Bob Backstrom are putting on in Belden later this month.
The idea came about when Rouse and Backstrom (one-time local music/comedy promoter and former owner of Bustolini’s Deli & Coffee House) noticed that there was only one funk fest on the West Coast, the Long Beach Funk Fest on Labor Day.
“[The goal is] to bring all the funk together, to bring notoriety to these bands and to let people hear them,” Rouse said.
More than 20 funk bands from across the North State and beyond will jam about 34 hours’ worth of funk along the Feather River at the inaugural festival.
Bands, deejays and other performers will play on two stages—the indoor bar stage and the outdoor main stage, nestled between the wilderness and the riverside. To escape the heat, festival-goers can float on the river and still hear the funk flowing right along with the current. Overnight accommodations include campsites, cabins and hotels with a view of the river and the music. There will be vendors, including food and beverages (with a full bar) for purchase.
What will set this festival apart from the many other Nor Cal summer festivals, Rouse said, is the relaxed, inclusive, family-friendly vibe of rural Belden. Well, that, and the fact that it’s an all-funk fest.
“Funk music has that draw which is primal, y’know, the ‘unh,’ the U-N-H. But it’s also joyous and it celebrates the human experience,” Rouse said. “It’s really the human experience put to music … that gets you to dance and celebrate and shake off and have that shared experience with other people and the band of what it’s like to be human.”
Highlights on the schedule include Jelly Bread, an alternative rock-soul-funk band from Reno; Chico’s funky jammers Swamp Zen; Oakland’s Funk Revival Orchestra; and Moksha, a rock-funk band from Las Vegas.
The Saturday headliner—Reno’s heavy-horn funk and soul group Mojo Green—is an act Rouse is particularly looking forward to. For the second half of Mojo Green’s set, the band will back up “Hornageddon,” an 11-piece horn section composed of artists from various bands.
“I don’t think there’s a band that we’re really, really interested in that’s smaller than seven pieces,” Rouse said. “The bigger, the better.”
The duo hope to keep expanding the event. If it garners a good response, they plan to invite bigger funk acts from all over the world.
Backstrom—who just returned to Chico last weekend from a year abroad in Ecuador and Costa Rica—and Rouse have spent 18 months planning the festival, working out the details, securing permits and lining up sponsors. They wanted to take the time to make sure it turns out right and that people feel good about it, Rouse said.
“We kind of have big visions for it,” Rouse said. “We both see it as something that could grow quite large, so we didn’t want to have anything hanging over it.”
Rouse said support from sponsors and excitement from the community has been great. He’s eager to see it all come together.
“The bands that we’re having and the people who are coming are all wonderful people,” he said. “I’ve been working on this so long that I’m really looking forward to seeing the smiles on people’s faces.”