California has many unique locations to choose from when it comes to festival venues; there’s the redwoods in the east, deserts in the south, and snow capped mountains in the west. With all these locations to choose from, dozens of electronic festivals, bass raves, mainstream mega festivals, and low key jam/folk festivals occur through the year…but not a lot of funk/soul type festivals if you think about it. Well…let me tell you a little bit about a funk festival that is located in the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains that usually occurs the second weekend of the month of August.
For the Funk of It Music Festival is California’s only 3 day all funk camping music festival and is located in the Plumas National Forest two hours northeast of Sacramento, CA in a hidden gem of a town called Belden. It took place from August 10-13th this year and celebrated its 5th wonderful year at the beloved Belden Town. With a festival max capacity of just over 1000 people, due to the land space of the town being so small, it makes way for a very intimate and wildly euphoric experience as you are implanted into the mountainside as this lively festival takes place.
Besides a small motel, restaurant, bar, a few cabin homes, and a tiny post office not much else is there but open land, which makes finding a camping spot for you and your crew very easy. While some people may bring their RVs and camp at the front of the festival grounds there are many beach access locations, tree covered flat land or hammock worthy spots to choose from as you walk down the path to get to the rest of the venue.
The overall vibe of the festival is something I know and love and is probably one of my favorite aspects of the festival. Everyone who goes there, whether it’s families with kids, young adults, old hippies, unfamiliar festival folk with a love for brass, whoever…everyone gets along and no one puts up with any bad energy, shady behavior, or close mindedness. Every attendee smiles as they cross in passing and you can just feel the accepting nature of those that come to this festival. Every individual who comes to this festival just wants to have a good time enjoying good, live music in a beautiful environment during the summertime!
For the Funk of It, though small in size due to the intimate size of Belden, has 3 stages: the main stage, which sits more towards the front of the festival venue in a cleared out space with trees shading around it; the beach stage, which is pretty self explanatory- a stage on the main beach access part of the river where hundreds of people bring out there floaties while raging to the music; and the bar stage, which is inside the restaurant/bar part of the motel building that allows folks to dance inside while enjoying their cocktails and food. With all the music played at the festival being of funk genre, For the Funk of It does a good job of making sure bands do not overlap too much so the attendees are able to optimize their time at each stage without missing too much.
Speaking of music, FTFOI always seems to get a lively bunch of artists to be on the lineup. From Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Afrolicious, Nigel Hall Band, and funk bands everywhere in between, FTFOI bring in musicians that the crowd will dance their asses to until the sunrises, literally! There technically is no noice ordinance so the festival is allowed to schedule music to play until sunrises, which of course it does! This year some of my favorites who blessed us all with their talent were: Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Smokey the Groove, Mojo Green and Diggin’ Dirt.
When a last minute band cancellation happened Friday afternoon of FTFOI, none other than Smokey the Groove saved the day by gracing us with their lively sound during that Friday evening slot. Their music is unique and one that I thoroughly enjoy listening to every chance I get; their progressive yet upbeat, trippy style funk music has you breaking out in an energetic dance that you are happy to get lost in. Their stage presence is also so fun and memorable! They always bring different signs, toys, props, etc that they decorate the stage with and will sometimes dance around with masks on, to me that brings such an authentic vibe. I truly enjoy their music and get more and more excited about their sets each time they play whether at a festival or show, love you guys! Diggin’ Dirt came on later that night and oh man was that a fun show to witness and dance to. They gave the audience a sexy, smooth funk style whose sound ranges from old school blues to reggae-rock. Diggin’ Dirt is the type of music you can feel your whole body swaying to as you feel the sounds of the drums, brass and vocals flowing through your soul. Jenes Carter from Mojo Green ended up being a special guest during part of their set and hearing her and DD’s lead singer, Zach Alder, vibe together was such a good time.
Ok now for my other favorite sets this year. Mojo Green with Hornmageddon both seem to be a staple group and performance that happen at For the Funk of It. Mojo Green bursts onto the stage every time with such energy in their funky music that it will surely light you up. Their lead singer, Jenes Carter, has a beautiful voice and her spit fire dance moves get you excited as you see her petite self groovin away. A fun surprise during their set this year was that they brought Big Sam, from Big Sam’s Funky Nation, onto their set and let him absolutely kill it on his trombone, hitting these intense brassy notes that had us all vibrating. Now, what is Hornmageddon you’re probably asking? Well during the Mojo Green set they had a large selection of brass players from the various bands that were also performing at this festival come onto the stage and basically rage out all together on their instruments! How crazy is that?! It’s honestly one of the highlights of the festival because that’s just so much brassy, funky goodness all happening in harmony and there’s nothing better than that.
My final favorite set at For the Funk of it was the one and only: Big Sam’s Funky Nation. Big Sam and his band have such a presence to them, both in person and in their music. Their music is both invigorating and smooth, all while blasting you with that true New Orleans jazz-funk that we don’t hear enough of on the west coast. Big Sam’s Funky Nation has a way of getting you to move your entire body in such a way that could honestly only resemble that of a noodle, you find yourself doing endless body rolls all over the place and it’s as if you are under some kind of spell. Big Sam always gives it his all and you can tell him and his band have such a great time performing and dancing to their own music. They also love to engage the crowd in their performance; during part of their set they ended up hand selecting different women from the crowd to come on stage with them and shake all that junk in their trunks; it was so fun and a carefree show!
For the Funk of It is a wonderful festival experience that I think everyone should go check out; whether you’re a die hard funk music listener, only know of one James Brown song, or enjoy live music but have never gotten around to the funk genre! The venue itself is quaint and perfect for people that want to get away from the large, hectic festival life or just want to enjoy a more intimate camping experience in the woods. Music goes all day and all night and people have the freedom to sleep into the afternoon, run around in the wildest toucan onesie or splash around in a floatie on the river at 4am (while of course being careful and at their own risk). The people who go to For the Funk of It want to enjoy live music in a beautiful part of California and make the most of an August weekend. I have yet to have a negative experience at For the Funk of It and I can’t wait to watch this festival grow even more.
On another note I’d like to thank Tony Dellacioppa for allowing me to share with you a few pictures he took of my favorite bands I enjoyed seeing this year, I only took a couple videos the entire weekend so I appreciate him so much for his quality photography. Thank you For the Funk of It for a memorable 5th year, see you next year!