Funk Historians

Fans of hard-core, Clinton-era (George Clinton, that is) funk should find something -- if not everything -- about Shag eerily familiar. The multiracial octet is nothing if not a sweaty-assed '90s encapsulation of Clinton's P-Funk experience circa 1975 -- raw, irreverent, sexually adventurous, socially aware and always danceable.

When asked to describe what they're about, the members of Shag like to toss around the "neo-funk" catch phrase. But really, the most refreshing thing about the group is its retro philosophy, a sort of unwritten mission statement to return to funk's basic, booty-shaking foundation. The band hails from Cincinnati, a city synonymous with funk's storied past. Not just Clinton, but James Brown, Cameo, the Ohio Players and the Isley Brothers all have ties to the Queen City. For that matter, so does Bootsy Collins, Clinton's long-time associate in Parliament/Funkadelic. Collins, a Cincinnati native, happened upon a Shag performance one evening in 1994. His mind blown, he took the band under his wing, unleashing his mobile Bootzilla Productions studio at subsequent gigs. Collins captured the band's raw funk essence on the 1995 CD Bootsy Collins Presents: Shag Live (modesty has never been Bootsy's strength). A so-so studio release, Silver City, followed a year later.

For Collins, watching Shag rock the house must be a little like looking in the mirror. Like every P-Funk incarnation since 1970, Shag often seems like the very definition of controlled chaos, its polished potency all the more impressive considering the monumental party that's always raging on-stage. If anything, Shag's bulky lineup -- vocalists Duran Murphy and Mark Chenault, keyboardist/sax man Craig Shields, drummer John Miracle, bassist Chris Sherman, saxophonist Matt Reynolds, trumpet player Dave Traylor and guitarist Chris Donnelly -- and the fact that the band barely fits on many nightclub stages only contribute to the free-for-all atmosphere. Then there's the matter of Shag's exhibitionist urges, made plain in some of the most flamboyant ways possible. Glitter, dreadlocks, eye shadow, fake fur, feathers and day-glo vinyl combine for a fashion statement part P-Funk nostalgia, part glam, part merciless visual assault uniquely Shag's own.

But there's more to Shag than wild parties and outlandish getups. The band can play, and play they do, well into the night. Just when it appears that the group has drained the last of its energy reserves, the show kicks up a notch, and then another, messing with an audience's collective adrenaline like a thrill ride jammed on fast forward. As the saying goes, "The power of funk will kick your ass," and Shag is more than happy to prove that true.

-- Hobart Rowland

Shag performs at 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 9, at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue. Punkinhead opens. Tickets are $5. For info, call 869-

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Hobart Rowland