MVVP | 12.05.02 | B.B. King Blues Club | New York City
There is no place on this earth like New Orleans, Louisiana. The lawless free-for-all smorgasbord of booze, blues, and attitude provides for an experience like no other, if one can handle the terrain. The heat that pulverizes the city and its inhabitants comes out in their behavior, manifested through ramshackle alleyways and majestic sprawling properties, weathered and sturdy architecture frame the maniacal wisdom and song emanating from within NOLA and up to the Northeast.
And so it was that the grand wizard skins-man Johnny Vidocavich would lead a troupe of NOLA heavy hitters into another lawless behemoth of a city, the one that has yet to catch a wink of sleep, the Big Apple. The frenetic drummer brought along his most famous protégé, Galactic‘s Stanton Moore, whom in turn recruited their masterful organist Rich Vogel. Rounding out the squad was Meters bassist, NOLA resident badass George Porter Jr. The stage at the swanky BB Kings was set for a night of whiskey soaked crunk. And crunk up in there it got.
Johnny got the party started with an ominous rumbling groove, accented by Moore’s mallets and some fuzzy low-end tone from Porter. The drummers were seated facing one another at the front of the stage, with Porter on stage right, behind JV. Vogel, seated behind his co-conspirator Moore, began to wash some luscious B3 juice and the starship lifted off. JV began to babble in the mic as he would throughout the evening, something to effect of “having fun, playing drums.” It evolved into a two chord rolling groove that harked back to MMW circa 95, with its funky undertones, knocking soundscape and jazzbo chordal tweaking. This was to be boombap of a crescent city kind.
Porter took some vocals and played lyrical bass, scatting along with “Lemme have it all,” with some rim shots from Johnny, segueing into the first of many Stanton/Johnny drum duels, this one giving way to Jimmy Smith-like rare groove sounds led by Vogel. The cohesion of this band and their ability to listen to one another immediately separated it from the sloppy world of super-jams. Porter stepped on the envelope filter and as the crowd began to rock so did the band, with a four to the floor stomper including Johnny V’s “cold cans o’beer” lyric.
However, Mr. Vidocavich, you may want to work on your rhymes and flow, because for such a rhythmic guy, your MC skills can be likened to that of Michael Jordan’s baseball career. Stick to the drums and maybe some lighthearted spoken word. It just ain’t cool, dawg.
After a comical Johnny V band intro, Ivan Neville (yet again clad in his Tipitina’s workman shirt, I don’t know if I have EVER seen him wear something else!) replaced Vogel on the Hammond and the energy level was kicked up a notch like Emerald was right in the mix, rolling up spinach. The band worked out “Love the One You’re With,” with George and Ivan trading vocals and smiles, driving head on into “Just Kissed My Baby,” complete with pork chops and gravy. The NOLA crew ran right back into a rollicking “Love the One” finish, during which Soulive‘s Sam Kinninger and Robert Walter’s 20th Congress‘ Cochema Gastellum emerged to deliver raucous horn accompaniment and solos. The grille was sizzling as the first set ended, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted Neville to stay or Vogel to return to the keys.
As the night wore on and the whiskey sank in, the New Orleans vibe really started creepin’.
Vogel and Moore led the team into the second set with Galactic’s “Sprung Monkey,” which the crowd warmly received, particularly during Cheme’s blazing solo that seemed to up the ante all the way around. The jam out of the song recalled Sly Stone’s “Thank You fa letting me be Mice Elf, Again,” and soon George steered the mothership onto James Marshall Hendrix’s “Third Stone from the Sun.”
A subdued afrobeat duel followed between teacher and student, driving the vehicle even further, blurring genre boundaries and dipping into a calypso Bourbon Street jawn that had me thirsting for Tropical Isle. Vogel handled the sweet melody as Cheme took a bright solo, major in authority and pitch as it tore the house down. Another duel gave way to a bluesy excursion led by George Jr., and a heavy funk joint, also led by the bassist, closed out a raging set that kept on cooking for nearly ninety minutes.
My favorite Stanton Moore original “Tchfunkta” was the perfect choice for an encore, its descending melding drone uplifting those remaining in the house as Moore and JV bashed away grins smearing their childlike expressions. It was strange to hear the song without horns, although it gave it a feeling more raw and dagger-like. An amalgam of all things New Orleans, “Tchfunkta” was a fitting closer to a show that straight wreaked New Orleans, from the drums to the bums. Ya Heard Me!
Later that evening/early that morning, Vidocavich, Moore, Vogel, Gastellum and Kinninger joined the Russo/Benevento duo at Tobacco Road for some late night fireworks, melding NOLA and NYC together again for another most lustful and sadistic tryst.
[Published on: 12/10/02]
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