We Want the Funk Festival brings legendary music acts to Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

We Want the Funk Festival brings legendary music acts to Pittsburgh

click to enlarge A distinguished Black gentleman looks at the camera as he sits in a chair.
Photo: Courtesy of Rhino Records
Morris Day
We Want the Funk Festival wants to prove that “funk is timeless and is at home everywhere.” That’s according to a statement about the event, set to unfold across two days full of performances from “chart-toppers to R&B-fusion groups to solo vocalists.”

Now in its fourth year, the festival, taking place Fri., Dec. 9 and Sat., Dec. 10 at August Wilson African American Cultural Center, promises to celebrate the “rhythm-driven musical genre that evolved from the R&B, soul, and jazz music of the 1960s that continues to influence today’s artists.” Local fans can expect big acts who came to prominence in the 1970s and 1980s.

Opening the festival are Morris Day & The Time and Alexander O'Neal, both pioneers of the Minneapolis Sound that blended funk, New Wave, and synthpop, and was popularized by the late music legend Prince.

The performance marks possibly one of the last for Day, who recently revealed he would retire after Black Entertainment Television announced he and The Time would receive the Legend award at the 2022 Soul Train Awards.

“They say the way you start is the way you finish, and being that I’m retiring end of next year, it’s only fitting that I return to the place that helped start it all,” said Day in a press release, adding that the band’s first major TV appearance was in 1981 on Soul Train with host Don Cornelius.

Known for appearing in films like the 1984 Prince vehicle Purple Rain, Morris Day & The Time produced singles like the dance-worthy "Jungle Love," "Cool" and "The Bird."

Vocalist O’Neal has R&B hits from nearly a dozen albums, including the quiet storm classic, “If You Were Here Tonight,” as well as “Never Knew Love Like This” and “Saturday Love,” two duets he performed with fellow singer-songwriter Cherrelle.

The festival continues on Saturday with two acts out of Memphis, ConFunkShun and The Bar-Kays, a group of Stax Records session musicians formed in 1964 and considered among the first artists to merge soul, R&B and funk. After four of the original members died in the same 1967 plane crash that took Otis Redding, the band reformed, worked with Isaac Hayes, and was featured in the 1973 concert documentary Wattstax. They would go on to produce hits like “Shake your Rump to the Funk,” “Move Your Boogie Body,” and the 1978 single “Holy Ghost.”

Originally from California, ConFunkShun moved to Memphis, was signed to Mercury Records in 1976, and recorded a dozen albums. Their hit “Love’s Train” was recently reinterpreted by Silk Sonic, the power duo formed by Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars.

Fill your weekend with funk during this event full of exceptional, decades-sapping talent.
We Want the Funk Festival. Fri., Dec. 9 and Sat., Dec. 10. 980 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $55-65. awaacc.org

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