Blue Robot

Dumpstaphunk at the State Theatre: Jivin’ for Phunk

Posted by Alexandra Voigt on 03/04 at 01:04 PM

It may be because it’s a random Wednesday night in rural Pennsylvania that the State Theatre is nearly empty. But, wait, this is Penn State—the same Penn State that hosts the notorious and highly anticipated “State Patty’s Day” celebration full of vengeful, relentless partying. Yet a talented group of soulfully intrigued musicians from New Orleans—host to the ultimate festival party around, Mardi Gras—comes to town and not even half of the theatre is filled.

I assume people missed the memo about this sick-nasty band of five funk junkies coming through, otherwise Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk would have been a sold-out show.  The New York Times did label them as “the best funk band from New Orleans right now.

It is around 9:15pm, and the locally based reggae-rock band, Atlas Soundtrack, has finished their hour-long set, leaving the remaining two hours for some phunky phresh Dumpstaphunk.

Despite what few bodies are present in the crowd, the members still relish every moment playing on stage, and the audience understands how to follow, mirroring the syncopated rhythm of the laborers’ funk.  As the band plays its own original compositions, it is simultaneously releasing and projecting feel-good dancing vibes throughout the variously aged crowd members. 

Tony Hall, bassist and guitarist, instantly drives everyone into the first turbulent song, “Livin’ in a World Gone Mad.”  One may not know it at the time, but every song is a story narrated by the band’s leader, Ivan Neville, or the band all together. Such songs include “Gas Man” ranting about a smelly, gaseous fan that decides to eat a burrito prior to the show.

Other songs deal with current events, like “Meanwhile,” which is a redemption song written after Hurricane Katrina. The lyrics represent Ivan Neville’s feelings toward the natural disaster.  Even though the world is not where we want it to be for the most part, we must enjoy ourselves in the meantime.  In fact, Katrina is one of the reasons that Dumpstaphunk began touring and isn’t considered a “side project” to simply play the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

It is the hardest thing to try and refrain from dancing at a Dumpstaphunk show.  You honestly can’t help but to whip out the ole “Night at the Roxbury” side head bang to the infectious pulses and notes of the clavinet. Nor can you avoid biting your lip in a forward head slide motion to the rock steady instrumentalism of the song, “Stinky.”

Throughout the band’s set, all five members watch the crowd’s reaction, feeding on their enthusiasm, and then further ensuing more grooves.  It’s a funny and warming relationship to witness.  The band strives to stay interactive and connected with everyone.

About halfway through the set, Ivan decides to call up several women from the audience to the stage for a little collaboration.  Within minutes seven random chicks sporting long, flowing skirts and smiles jiggy their way on up the stage and dance to the “Nawlin’s” inner city jams.

One thing for certain is this: Dumpstaphunk does not limit improvisation, nor does the group stop the funk from turning a little freaky.  Spontaneity is the audacious driving force of the band. The cut-throat bass, the soulful storytelling vocals, the flirtatiously tinkering tambourine, the gutsy whammy-ing guitar, and the jazzy streaming clavinet continue to rage on longer than anyone anticipates.

Yet, eventually the night closes in and the famous freeing chants of “Put it in the dumpsta!” are only echoing in my own head and not the theatre.  Although the night’s attendance wasn’t that of Umphrey’s McGee two weeks earlier, the crowd represented its taste in authentic, liberating music. In fact, this atmosphere was actually much more preferable.

(Check out previews of the band’s Listen Hear E.P. here.)

{name} Author: Alexandra Voigt
Bio: [Alex] is currently a senior double majoring in Print Journalism and International Studies with a double minor in Music Technology and French. As random as all that may seem, Alex’s true passion lies within the art of music and the countless characteristics of rock and roll. Growing up to everything classic rock, she indulges in Led Zeppelin, The Doors, CCR, The Animals, Neil Young up through 90s grunge and today’s indie/folk rock and electro beats like: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Spoon, The Black Keys, TV on the Radio and Bassnectar!, (don’t turn away, that is only a taste of the list). Alex also loves using music programs like Logic Pro to mix, modulate and place different effects on songs, which is why electronic/techno and dubstep play an essential factor in her everyday life.


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