larry norman
If you've gotta, gotta get your groove on this weekend, Grand Lake will be the place to bring your boogie shoes out for a good cause.

Funk — it's a whole new level. It's not a genre, but a creation that mixes it up a little, according to Grand County Center 4Excellence Director Larry Norman. The warm-hearted youth mentor a.k.a. DJ Normski is promoting the Center's annual FunkFest and he's beaming about the event lineup and tributes. He and the wide variety of artists set to play are also eager to share the excitement of the evolutionary musical form.

Complimentary to every walk of life, funk “includes more than just music,” explains Andy Irvine. It shakes it up starting with classics like blues and rock, then stirs things up some more with some jazz, some style, and what the local bass maestro calls a bit of “cultural attitude (that appealed to poor, urban culture living in the American Projects).”

Loyal to its musical muse, FunkFest 2009 presents an eclectic orchestra of musicians, rappers, DJs, memorabilia and vendors for this year's celebration. Performances feature MC and Poet Laureate Antonio Edwards (who is also leading a spoken word/poet workshop Saturday) and Colorado Funk/“C-Funk” Inc. (Jessica Jones, Sarah Clements, Greg Travis, Mark Johnson, rappers Nectaflow and Nakia, and DJs A-Mon and Normski).

Headlining are Sean Kerber (bass), Keenan Drummond (sax), Mason Jackson (trombone), Brennan Forrester (drums), and guitarists Vinny Crippen and Sam “Sundance” Kerber. They make up Grand County Blues Society's Blues in the Schools band Bad Sign, a dedicated group instructed by Irvine and Mickey Sandora (guitarist, 3rd Time Lucky).

With a name inspired by blues guitarist Albert King's song “Born Under a Bad Sign,” the band performed at this summer's Blues From the Top festival and has been a top contender at this year's (Saturday) and last year's Battle of the Bands. Its FunkFest 2009 performance will feature BWB's (Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum and Norman Brown) song “Up for the Down Stroke,” as well as its own spin on other funk classics.

“We're going to beef ‘em up,” Norman said. “They're the focal point for the whole event. After all, the focus is on the youth.”

This year's Leadership Award recipient, Chauncey Billups couldn't agree more. On behalf of the Denver Nuggets all-star guard, who has been involved with youth leadership with the Denver team and with the Detroit Pistons, Winter Park resident Rick Callahan will accept the honor this weekend on his behalf. Callahan, Billups' former high school basketball coach, will also present the Center with an autographed jersey to help raise funds for its programs.

Edwards, a.k.a. Clip-1, and C-Funk Inc. talents will also pay tribute to the late Wayman Tisdale, former NBA star who lost his leg, and recently his life to cancer. To Norman the “extremely funky” jazz great's latest hit album “Rebound” was not only an inspiration but fully embodied the spirit of the Center's education component. “It's about overcoming obstacles, your shortcomings, to achieve your best,” he said about the two. Tisdale's “people” have donated a photo and a special C-Funk Inc. remix of the musician's “Just Believe” has been prepared for the show.

Norman expects the event to be the best one so far. As a special thank you to the community, the Center has waived all cover costs and will have several ways people can donate if they can. Normski's "Groovy Gals" will be circulating with donation jars and event T-shirts ($20) will be available for purchase.

Proceeds from this weekend's contributors will help bring special keynote speakers to the Center, like last year's guest Jim Fay, founder of Love and Logic. They will also help finally find a location for the Center, which has been a long time coming. “As it's grown,” Norman said, “it has been time for a facility.” The Center has been a mobile entity since its inception in 2005, and started offering classes last year.
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