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The Family Stone set to perform at LEAF


Raw Syl, far right, is Sly Stone’s daughter and lead singer of The Family Stone that headlines LEAF Downtown Saturday, Aug. 5. Submitted photo.

Easy Star All-Stars, with reggae dub, follows Escort’s disco to wrap up that Friday’s main act. Rare Essence plays “D.C. Go-Go” music that Saturday, followed by fire performers then The Family Stone.

The LEAF Funk Mix-Tape Band, world music band Free Planet Radio, Escort with disco, bluesy Fly By Night Rounders, mountain folk The Paper Crowns, and percussionist Billy Jonas (doing children’s songs) are among more than 200 national, regional and local performers slated for the festival.

“Turn it Up” is the theme this time. The park jams thousands by its main stage. Nearby stages are the Cafe (for traditional music, also hip-hop) and youth Community Arts.

The Family Stone returns to LEAF-dom, having played in the Spring 2014 LEAF regular festival in Black Mountain. A treat is Sly Stone’s daughter Raw Syl as the lead singer.

“The cosmic funk gods opened the doors for LEAF to have one of the best funk bands of all time join us,” LEAF founder and Executive Director Jennifer Pickering said then. “LEAF just star-bursted to a new level of funk.”LEAF Performing Arts Director Ehren Cruz hails return of these “iconic legends,” this time to the summer festival downtown to further “connect cultures and create community through music and arts.”Four-time Grammy award winners Sly & the Family Stone are in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and among Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 25 Greatest Bands of All Time. This energetic act was a crowd favorite at Woodstock in 1969, utilizing call-and-response. Their soul, funk and psychedelic rock inspired Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Prince.Raw Syl (aka “Phunne Stone”) is its lead singer, these days. She is daughter of substance abuse-plagued former lead singer Sly Stone and his wife Cynthia Robinson, the band’s trumpeter originally and recently. Raw Syl is a multi-instrumentalist, mainly on keyboard and guitar. Her vocal style is compared to that of Alicia Keys and Sade.The two founding members in the current lineup are saxophonist Jerry Martini, and drummer Gregg Errico. “Papa J” Martini is widely credited for founding the multi-racial/gender band. Nate Wingfield is now lead guitarist, with Alex Davis on keyboards and vocals, and musical director Blaise Sisson on bass guitar.Sly & the Family Stone’s biggest hits included frenetic funky “Dance to the Music,” and sassy “Hot Fun in the Summertime.” Three songs topped both pop and R&B charts. They were “Everyday People” with the phrase “different strokes for different strokes,” “Thank You,” and urban blues “Family Affair.” Other hits are “I Wanna Take You Higher,” “Stand!,” “Everybody is a Star,” “Time for Livin,’” “If You Want Me to Stay” (with Sly’s sister Rose Stewart on lead vocals), “Smilin’,” “Runnin’ Away,” and “Loose Booty.”The band formed in 1966 in San Francisco around an actual family — Stewart siblings Sylvester (lead vocals and songwriter, keyboards, et al), guitarist-singer Freddie, keyboardist Rose, and “Little Sister” Vaetta, with cousin Larry Graham on bass. “Stone” came from the Stewart brothers’ prior bands, Sly & the Stoners and Freddie & the Stone Souls. During a multi-song tribute to the band at the 2005 Grammy Awards, enigmatic Sly had a blonde mohawk hairdo when joining his former colleagues — but did so merely for part of one song. The band was busiest until 1975, and split in 1983 after 17 years.LEAF Downtown features more than 80 handcraft and culinary vendors. Festival goers said they liked vendors set up on a green leading to the main stage, and going by a shaded small stage bordered by trees. The Voices of Asheville tent has a dance workshop, song circle and drum jam. There are various family adventure activities, and VIP perks available. The Art Dash 5K run starts 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 5. A half-hour parade starts at Pack Stage on Aug. 5, at 3:15. The park closes nightly at 10 p.m.Check for details, and about the fall LEAF Oct. 19-22 which is the 45th edition in the twice-a-year series.

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