May 19 2010 12:00 AM

Mi.Funk fest brings old-school to Old Town

Old Town’s newest outdoor music festival, Mi.Funk, started with a sanctified beam from the sky — much like the one that sent John Belushi into somersaults in “The Blues Brothers.”

For years, the Old Town Business and Development Association (or OTBADA) looked for a third festival to add to its popular mainstays, Blues Fest and Jazz Fest.

Last summer, OTBADA director Sharen Lange was sitting in the audience at East Lansing’s Summer Solstice Jazz Festival when local funkmaster Jim Alfredson of organissimo opened up a greasy groove on his Hammond B-3 organ.

As the vibrations shook her clavicles, Lange turned to the men on her left and right: her saxmanhusband, Brian, and OTBADA poobah Terry Terry.

“Oh my God! Funk fest!” she cried.

And so it came to pass.

When Lange broached the idea of a funk festival in Old Town to friends and colleagues, every face lit up.

“It crossed generational and cultural divides,” she said. “Everybody either remembered the music, said they loved to dance to it.”

Lange said MiFunk will be the only dedicated funk festival in the Midwest. Decking will be laid for a raised dance floor, and a laser show will zig-zag all over the scene.

True to OTBADA’s economic development, the fest will focus on Michigan-based bands — and Michigan beer and wine.

Organizers hope MiFunk will expand to a two-day event, like Jazz Fest or Blues Fest

“Down the road, we’d love to get some real old-school guys like Maceo Parker,” Lange said.

Lange grew up in Detroit and knows her funk.

“My parents loved music,” she said. “They started smuggling me into the bars when I was 16.”

She’s danced to the music of Soul Express at the Green Door many times.

“There’s 150 people, going up and down, with that horn section playing — there’s nothing like it,” she said.