It’s a mellow Sunday night in San Diego, but anytime Dumpstaphunk comes to your town it starts to feel a little bit like New Orleans. Founded by keyboardist Ivan Neville, son of Aaron Neville from the legendary Neville Brothers, Dumpstaphunk is a Louisiana groove machine that always brings along the easy going yet deeply groovy “Nawlins” vibe.
Ivan Neville is pretty old school himself, born in 1959 and well-seasoned from decades of immersement in the Big Easy music scene. He’s also toured as a member of Keith Richards’ X-Pensive Winos, so he brings a rock and roll credibility to the stage that further enhances Dumpstaphunk’s sound beyond just a standard jazzy funk. He first formed Dumpstaphunk in 2003 as a Jazzfest side project, but the band has seen its profile rise over the past five years since the members decided to focus on the group as their main project.
“We always keep the spontaneity going, that’s something I love about this band,” says Ivan in a recent press release. “We can funk it out with the best of them, but we also like to showcase how all sorts of music can come together and push the boundaries of what funk music is.”
Ivan’s younger cousin Ian Neville brings further next generation authenticity to the band on guitar. The 30-year-old axe man is son of Neville Brother Art, and is probably the only person his age who has attended all 30 editions of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival during his time on the third stone from the sun. Dumpstaphunk stands out further still for having two bassists, with virtuosos Tony Hall and Nick Daniels playing in tandem. Daniels focuses on the low end while Hall delivers more high-end punch and the pair make a truly dynamic bass duo. Female drummer Nikki Glaspie is the most recent addition to the band and she more than holds her own.
That laid back New Orleans vibe is apparent early in the evening with some of the band members hanging out casually talking to fans at the bar, as often seems to be the case here at The Griffin. Ten starts the music off with a hard rocking set that may catch some of the dance party fans off guard. There’s some groovy low end on the bass from Fishbone’s Norwood Fisher, but the alt-rock guitar from longtime scenester and sometimes P-Funk guitarist Eric McFadden makes for a hard rocking sound. The presence of drummer Thomas Pridgen from The Mars Volta was also a sign that this unit was going to have a harder edged vibe. “They like to rock,” says the new supergroup power trio on their site, and it’s no idle boast. The trio deliver a vibrant and high energy set serving notice that Ten is a new group to keep an eye on.
The show is running late, but with the New Orleans vibe in effect, no one seems to care. The two TV screens at the bar are showing Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a frequent selection here at The Griffin that lends an ever-welcome bit of gonzo vibe to the scene for fans of Hunter S. Thompson’s classic counterculture tale.
Dumpstaphunk gets the party started right out of the gate with “Dancing to the Truth”, where Ivan sings about opening your mind and uses a big jam to blast the neurons open with his impressive keyboard work. “Shine It On” is another stand out tune with the feel good groove and serves as a great segue into a teaser jam on Sly & the Family Stallone’s uplifting classic “You Can Make It If You Try”, with soulful vocals from Hall.
Hall also plays a little guitar here and there, but most of the show features he and Daniels on the powerhouse bass tandem. One might think having two bassists could get muddy, and in the wrong hands it would. But these pros know how to stay out of each other’s way and complement each other to create a higher sound.
“Water” is a funky standout with Daniels on the lead vocal and a sound that recalls memories of Michael Ray’s Kosmic Krewe. All of the band members get highlighted throughout the evening, with drummer Nikki Glaspie delivering a deep-in-the-pocket drum solo that conjures Zigaboo Modeliste from The Meters. She sings too, delivering a funky hip-hop inflected vocal on a groovy tune about shaking your moneymaker.
“This next song is based on a true story,” Ivan says introducing “Meanwhile”, a tune that references some foolishness on Capitol Hill in DC. “You might as well have a good time / There might not be a next time”, he sings in what could be the band’s motto, with some great backing vocals from Hall and Glaspie. An extended jam features Ivan switching over to Ian’s guitar for some six-string jamming and Ian then returning with another guitar as the two cousins rock it out family style on one of the evening’s hottest jams.
John Staten from Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe sits in on drums for “What Color is Harmony”, bringing some of the local acid jazz vibe into the mix for a hot tune with some bass jamming that seems to recall Sly & the Family Stallone’s classic “Thank You (Faletting Me Be Miceself Agin)”.
Back at the bar, the TV screens have switched over from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to Swingers, another classic that fits right in with the get your drink on vibe. The rousing set goes for over two hours, leaving the audience more than satisfied. The band encores with their signature funky workout, “Put It in the Dumpsta”, sending the crowd into one last ecstatic groove.
After the show, several members of the band hang out right outside the venue chatting and/or smoking with fans. It’s all part of that intimate New Orleans vibe where there’s a long tradition of breaking down the walls between performers and fans, because the performers are fans too and it’s just the friendly hospitable way to be. Keeping this vibe alive across the nation makes Dumpstaphunk some of the modern day music scene’s best ambassadors of funk.