Concert Review: George Clinton And The P-Funk All-Stars @ the Newport Music Hall, Columbus, Ohio (6/30/96)
There are many things I enjoy and appreciate about my time at Bowling Green State University, but one the best was the free stuff. Not tuition, or books, or food; stuff that would been useful. What I'm talking about is entertainment. How did we get free entertainment? Glad you asked.
One way was the campus movie theater, which showed advanced screenings of movies. Basically, you signed up in an office ahead of time, and if you got their early enough, you'd get on the list. When the movie was over, there was usually a comment card to fill out. Over the the years, I saw movies such as Grosse Point Blank, While You Were Sleeping, PCU and a few other this way.
Another way was via the campus radio station I worked at, WFAL AM 680. Working in the music department, we had access to piles of free promo cds, most of which never got played on the air. We also sponsored concerts and other events, so when the Violet Femmes, Wally Pleasant or Ani DiFranco came to campus, we promoted it and got free tickets. We also sponsored movies, like the premier of Trainspotting and an anime festival. But the really good gets were the concert tickets outside Bowling Green.
Outside a few bars, a dilapidated movie theater, and some very large campus venues (basketball and football stadiums), large concerts just didn't happen in town, so when it came time for the station to partner with touring acts and nearby venues, it was either Toledo (20 minutes away) or Columbus (2 hours away). Lots of concerts happened at the Asylum, Frankie's and other spots in Toledo in the 1990s. The tickets were supposed to be giveaways, but often the best shows just went to staff, like for Matthew Sweet, Local H, Big Head Todd & The Monsters, Our Lady Peace, Frank Black, Soul Coughing, etc.
Columbus, on the other hand, was the much tougher giveaway thanks to the distance. Many promo passes simply got tossed unless someone was a diehard about a band. In my case, the one-time I drove to Columbus while at WFAL to go to a free concert, I was not a diehard. In fact, I hardly knew anything about the band, which was George Clinton and P-Funk (that's Parliament Funkadelic) All-Stars. All I really knew was Clinton's solo single "Atomic Dog," which was a bar/dance club staple at the time even though it was released in the early 1980s.
The details are foggy, I'm not really sure who I went with, but I know I did make the trek from BG to Columbus myself in June of 1996. I don't know what I was expecting, or if I even had expectations, but let's say I was not prepared for any of it. I had no idea how big the band and production would be. I had no idea the band would jam for twenty-minutes before George Clinton even made an appearance, and that he was as much a ring-leader/master of ceremonies as he was frontman. I had no idea the would play for something like three and half hours. I had no idea that much pot could be smoked simultaneously in one room and no security would intervene.
I walked out of the Newport buzzing, figuratively and literally. Upon returning to BG, the next week I headed to the downtown record stores and picked up a copy of Tear The Roof Off, a Parliament double-disc greatest hits, because that's all I could find at the time. I think I played Flashlight nonstop on repeat for a week.
This was a good lesson. Sometimes, it's good to step out of your comfort zone into the unknown, especially when it comes to art and entertainment. This was my first serious foray into funk music, something I have grown to love, and it was based on taking a chance based on one song.