Saturday, July 2, 2011

Plunk Phunk at the Dell

Only once have I seen a performer with more than 25 albums to his credit and that was last fall's terrific Al Green show, here.

But at tonight's Dogwood Dell show, Plunky Branch of Plunky and Oneness came close with an even 25 albums to his name. 

And I didn't have to pay a dime to see him or drive to Charlottesville. No disrespect to Al, of course; he was well worth both and I'd do it again. But you see my point.

The crowd was huge when I arrived at the Dell and continued to grow throughout intermission. I'm sure that had something to do with this being Plunky's 30th appearance at the Dell.

In fact, he said that his group, along with the Larry Bland Choir, were the first black acts to integrate the Dell stage. That information got a huge round of applause from the adoring crowd. I know I was impressed.

And that crowd included some sharp-dressed men, let me tell you. My favorite had on a powder blue beret, a Hawaiian shirt of the same blue, coral and various greens, celery green slacks and two tone green and taupe shoes. He was something to behold (and I did).

As was the performance. Despite 40 years in the music business, Plunky still has the enthusiasm that, well, Al Green does. 

I suppose there's something about getting to your 60s and still making music that keeps a man happy and motivated.

Taking the audience on a musical journey through Richmond, NYC and Paris, Plunky's nine-piece (all clad in white while himself wore a colorful orange and black ensemble) "took it back," covering Stevie Wonder and Chuck Brown ("If he's the godfather of go-go, I'm the grandfather") in a wide-ranging jam.

The three backup singers contributed considerably to the soulful sound and even occasionally did solos as they swayed in time.

Plunky encouraged the crowd to sing along, clap along or dance. "You know, if you want to have a good time, you have to move something."

I didn't see anyone who wasn't moving something.

As the evening got funkier, Plunky explained that "Funk is in the spaces between the notes." He branded his version as "Original Plunk phunk" and there was a lot of head-nodding when he said that. 

Not surprising for a man who started playing African music in 1973 and has continued to evolve ever since.

As the snappy monochromatically dressed man sitting next to me asked rhetorically midway through the first set, "Can you dig it?"

I certainly could. Even white girls start moving something when the music's right.

And Plunky and Oneness were right on.

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