Charles Wright performing at the Summer and Music preview event. Photos by Angela Ratzlaff. 

Funk and soul legend Charles Wright, most known for his 1971 hit “Express Yourself,” sang, clapped his hands and even jumped off stage to dance with fans during an intimate Fingerprints performance on Thursday night.   

Wright will be joining the lineup for the fifth annual Summer and Music (SAM) Festival during the July 6 Funk Fest, which will be called “Funk of July” to celebrate Independence Day. The festival features classic funk artists, like Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, as well as up and coming soul bands.

“Funk is alive and well. It’s got emotion, and that’s what people need,” Wright said before his performance. “Funk is not something you program. Some of these bands these days, you hear the music before they start playing. That’s not funk, that’s bull crap.”

This year, however, is the first year that the music festival will be charging attendees to get into the Funkfest, with tickets ranging from $15 for presale or $20 at the event. Funkfest creator Bobby Easton said he has mixed feelings about the ticketing of the festival.

“One of my favorite things was to be able to tell people, “free funk.” I love being able to give that gift to people,” he said. “It’s a massive amount of work and budget, it’s just a hard fact, and in order to maintain an event of this size I knew eventually it was going to become ticketed. It’s a logical step and I’m just embracing it.”


The Dovelles

The Downtown Long Beach Association (DLBA), which has been sponsoring SAM since the start of the music festival, funds the entire series of concerts, which this year will include Dancin’ in the Streets, Funk Fest, Indie Rock at The Pike, Bicycle Drive-In and Buskerfest. 

Funk Fest is the only ticketed concert; the rest of the events are free.

“We’re just trying to make SAM bigger and bigger every year, and in order to do that, we are charging a very small ticket price,” Julie Korinke, communications manager for DLBA, said. “When you look at it, it averages to be about a couple bucks per performer, so you really won’t find that anywhere else. We really try to keep it affordable. 

{loadposition latestlife}Folk artist Matt Costa will kick off the series during the Dancin’ in the Streets event on June 15. New events for SAM include the Indie Rock at The Pike on July 20 and the Bicycle Drive-in that will feature a family-friendly movie screening on August 10.

The last event, Buskerfest, which is scheduled for August 17, highlights the Long Beach music scene by allowing local artists to play an unplugged set on the side of the street to win over fans and eventually receive a grand prize based off of how many wooden tokens they receive while playing.

For musicians, like guitarist Jon Zell, who plays for The Dovelles, the dreamy folk group that won the Buskerfest competition last year, SAM creates a community for aspiring artists.

“There were so many people just in this community, since I started playing music in Long Beach, that [were] so welcoming and so warm,” Zell said. “I felt like I belonged.”

For more about Summer and Music or to buy tickets for Funkfest, visit