Photos by Jon Prins
The Scene: The brick walls of Cervantes’ Other Side fortified the funk while the legendary bass playing of George Porter Jr. acted as a cornerstone. Porter’s work with The Meters was literally the cornerstone in the foundation of funk, and audience members seemed to truly appreciate that fact. There was almost an air of reverence as people, including myself, spoke about this man. The room packed with people of all ages who were hip to the fact that Porter and his Runnin’ Pardners were going to rattle the mortar and shake the floors with the sound of true New Orleans funk, straight from the source. While a small part of the crowd was made up of people who actually listened to the original Meters recordings at the time of release, for the past ten years or so Porter has also built a strong following in the jam band scene, and those folks were getting sweaty too! One of the owners of Cervantes’, Scott Morrill, summed it up by saying, “It’s ALWAYS a good night when George is in town.” True dat!
Opener: Rodina. Rodina is female singer from the UK who answers to the name Aoife Hearty. She teamed up with some local boys for this opening set, and they added some gusto to her normally mellow, poppy, jazz inspired, ambient sound. Fox Street Allstars James Dumm (Guitar) and Eric Low (Drums) are part of this local super-group, as is Josh Fairman (Bass) of Kinetix, and Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad engineer Joel Scanlon who joined in on percussion. Rounding out the line-up is Joe Tatton from The New Mastersounds who manned the keyboards and shared vocal duties with his wife Aoife. They played a good set, but unfortunately what people really wanted was the funk. The vocals just didn’t get the crowd going, but the killer solos every musician got to take did. I think the highlight for everyone on stage and off is when Porter himself came out to jam on the last song.
George Porter Jr. and The Runnin’ Pardners: Porter and crew took to the stage around 11, and the room was packed and ready to get down. Porter and The Pardners are reworking material from The Meters catalogue and bringing a whole new life to it. Often times bands with one original member of a legendary group fall short when playing that bands material; but not these guys. With this band what you get is the authentic funk of The Meters spiced up and jammed out. Porter and his Runnin’ Pardners released an album of reworked Meters recordings last year called Can’t Beat the Funk, and what we heard was mostly off of that album.
Drummer Terrance Houston kicked the night off as he started beating the intro into “6V6 LA.” The music was high energy from the first note, and so was the crowd. They tore through the first song as if it was the last they would ever play. This is why people love this man, he doesn’t half step or fake the funk…he simply brings it! Porter doesn’t just get down on the bass, he steps up to the microphone as well, and as he sang “Doin’ the Dirt” the place began to get a little grimier. As Brint Anderson wailed on his guitar you could see why Jamband fans get into these guys. They solo, stretch it out, improvise but keep that all important funky groove.
“I Went to the Mardi Gras,” originally recorded by Snooks Eaglin, got us all thinking we were in the French Quarter as the horn blared and the bass lines thumped. Porter and his band simply radiate fun from the stage, with both their music and their smiles. The first set wrapped up with “Whatcha Say” and the crowd rehydrated and retied the laces on their dancing shoes, knowing the night had just begun.
Porter and his posse came back refreshed and really blew the minds of the festival goers in the room by playing some choice covers. The first was Little Feat’s “Sailin’ Shoes” which segued right into “Sneaking Sally Through the Alley.” If you want to please the Jamband crowd, playing that song is one of the easiest ways to do it and just when you thought the crowd was as hyped up as they could be, Porter whipped out some Hendrix. As the guitar riff became recognizable, the crowd erupted into a “Purple Haze.” And while all that was great, what really showed the funkin’ power of this band was the 15 minute version of “He Bite Me (The Dragon).”
Porter has been recording music for over 40 years, and his bass playing still appears effortless. His smoothness on stage comes through the speakers with authority, expertise, and poise. Some of the crowd has known his music for decades, and some just got done seeing him on Jam Cruise; but everyone got a heavy dose of what they were looking for…FUNK. At some point George Clinton from Parliament Funkadelic was dubbed the “Godfather of Funk,” but I wasn’t asked to cast a vote on that one. If you think in terms of commercial recognition and album sales. . . maybe. But if you look at who truly created the Funk sound and the roots of Funk, I feel George Porter Jr, is way more deserving of the title.
Stage Presence: B+
Set/Light show: B