Meters Reconvene for NOLA Club Date
With a daytime lineup that includes everyone from Herbie Hancock and Esperanza Spalding to rapper Mystikal and Bruce Springsteen, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is as rich and unique as the city itself. And at night, New Orleans explodes into a hotbed of intimate music venues boasting the best of the best in funk, rock, blues, electronic and jazz music until the break of dawn.
New Orleans natives The Meters helped define funk music in the late ’60s and would later be relevant to a whole new audience with the birth of hip-hop in the ’80s and ’90s as their undeniable grooves were often sampled. The group performed at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 2005. But at the 2012 Jazz Fest, it would wait until the sun went down to play its first New Orleans club gig in more than 30 years, at NOLA venue the Howlin’ Wolf.
Opening the evening were Papa Grows Funk and Rebirth Brass Band, who are also deeply rooted in New Orleans tradition. The Meters, who took the stage at about 12:30 a.m., started off a bit rough as they meandered their way through such classics as “Cissy Strut,” “Fire On The Bayou” and “The Dragon.” It was odd hearing these songs played by their originators, only to see them limping through the set. During “Cardova,” however, things turned around. Leo Nocentelli’s guitar was a driving force, pushing Art Neville’s keys while Ziggaboo Modeliste’s pioneering drum style joined forces with George Porter Jr.’s bass to finally get the motor going. And when they did, it was a sight to behold.
“Hey Pocky Way” was a full-blown sing-along and dance-a-thon. Porter could easily be hailed as the MVP of this tune and of the whole evening. Most nights, he performs with multiple bands into the early morning hours, and on this particular evening he also had a gig afterwards that was billed for a 2 a.m. start.
The hour was getting late, and on-stage exhaustion was starting to show. During the set closer, “Ain't No Use,” one could observe the toll that age had taken on Neville’s vocals. The band charged through the verses, picking up steam with every measure. Modeliste started packing more punches, and as the band reached the second coda, Neville launched his Hammond B3 organ solo skyward and filled the room with force, grace and energy. Porter couldn’t look away, and they both exchanged hearty smiles before the song was finished.
After a few jokes about the “Senior Citizens Center All-stars” and substances to aide one in staying awake, Modeliste delivered a heartfelt thank-you to the audience for supporting The Meters’ music throughout the years. The evening’s encore was “People Say.”
These four musicians thoroughly enjoy making music with one another onstage. Though there may not be an original Meters tour anytime soon, hopefully they will come together periodically in celebration of their individual musical journeys, all of which stem from the unrelenting source of funk that is The Meters.
—Scott T. Horowitz