Funkmosphere was the Field of Dreams of funk. When Dâm-Funk launched the indelible dance party about 600 weeks ago, the state of the genre was as moribund as Moonlight Graham.
The fluorescent chords of boogie and the junkyard-dog talkbox of Roger Troutman, once the bedrock of sweat-dripping bacchanals and L.A. hip-hop, had become afterthoughts. Only a few recognized the sounds for what they were: an irreplaceable component of L.A.’s sonic fabric and arguably the best party music ever conceived.
This Thursday marks the final installment of what will go down as one of the best club nights in civic history — though it will continue to live as a semi-regular party series, starting with an Oct. 20 edition at Union featuring George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic.
“It felt like the mission had been accomplished,” says Dâm-Funk, the architect behind the resurgence of the sound that has re-emerged over the last five years in tracks by everyone from Bruno Mars and Kendrick Lamar to Toro y Moi and Tyler, the Creator.
“When we started, funk was snickered at, and now it’s everywhere, from pop radio to clubs in L.A. and around the world. We did it uncut and opened up a lot of doors. Now it’s time to move to special events and go out on top.”
Dâm-Funk built it and they came. Starting in 2006, week after week. First on Monday nights at the Carbon in Culver City, and then, in 2012, on Thursdays at the Virgil. It was probably the most consistent Thursday night offering since Seinfeld was on the air.
As Dâm-Funk’s career ascended, the other residents stepped up and burnished their reputation as some of the finest selectors in this city or any other, excavating obscure ’70s and ’80s funk rarities, turning up the party and educating at the same time.
Though the night was spawned from Dâm-Funk’s vision, it couldn’t have prospered without his crew — Billy Goods, Randy Watson, Laroj, Matt Respect and Eddy Funkster. Over the last several years, the latter’s Mo Funk imprint also helped push the modern funk sound forward, offering another front in the gradual renaissance.
The weekly couldn’t have begun under more humble origins. Its genesis traced to a chance encounter Dâm-Funk had with Carbon’s booker; Funk was working as an OfficeMax truck driver. When he learned a Monday night slot was available, he fatefully snatched the opportunity.
“That first night, there were maybe 14 people. Sometimes there would be as few as three,” Funk says. “Then I looked up months later and it was packed. I want to inspire others who feel like they’re on the fringe of a scene to take whatever it is that they like, put their foot in it and make it their own. Club culture can be whatever you want it to be.”
Few club nights have ever been as diverse and eclectic. The sound might have been centered in funk but the crowds were always diverse and inclusive, spanning all demographics. You could see UCLA kids dancing next to the late and fondly remembered Reggae Pops. Diplo came in one night. So did Faith Evans, wearing a Kiss shirt. Even Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix once pulled up.
There were too many canonical evenings — from Dâm’s interstellar Prince tribute to performances from Egyptian Lover, Moodymann, Peanut Butter Wolf and J. Rocc. Though Funkmosphere will continue in a different form, its weekly absence must be mourned. Yet its legacy figures to be continually celebrated by anyone who ever attended.
“It naturally found a lane because it was honest. Honesty is the key,” Dâm-Funk says. “When you’re honest with yourself and doing something that you dig, you’ll attract other people. Just make sure that you’re original.”
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Funkmosphere's final weekly party happens Thursday, Aug. 24 at the Virgil. More info.
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