George Porter Jr. and Runnin Pardners | 9.19.03 | Chelsea's | Baton Rouge, LA

My earliest memories of Chelsea's go back about ten years when aspiring musicians like myself could swap our talents for cheese-fries and free draft beer. Back then the Baton Rouge club had neither a stage nor a sound system to speak of, and the bands had to move tables and stack chairs to make enough room to play. Back then it was my favorite club to play, and today it still is my favorite venue to see live shows. Through ten years of hard work and much ambition, owner Dave Remitter and manager John "JB" Bell have transformed Chelsea's from the eclectic neon and daiquiris hippie hangout to the premiere live music venue in Baton Rouge, hosting national touring performers such as John Scofield, MOFRO, Jerry Joseph and Col. Bruce Hampton, as well as regional heroes such as Papa Grows Funk, Stanton Moore, New Orleans Juice and Righteous Buddha, and of course, one of my personal heroes, George Porter Jr.

By Sean Smith
Friday night was one of those magical nights that seem to happen only in Louisiana. Heat of 85 degrees and humidity of 90% at night... and the air conditioning was broken. From the get-go, the evening seemed to be poised for something special – a night to grin from ear to ear, dance hard, and sweat away the worries of the world. Although the Runnin Pardners line-up seems to be in flux these days, tonight's ensemble was a first rate conglomeration of stellar musicians who have played with George over the past ten years. For tonight's show, longtime Pardner, blues man and guitarist Brint Anderson, keyboardist Mike Lemmler, renowned saxophonist Clarence Johnson III, and drummer James Vernardo joined George for what was the best Runnin Pardners show I have seen in a couple of years. Anyone who was scared away by George's recent forays into jazzier and mellower territory need not fear – the FUNK was brought.

Highlights from the first set included the newer tune "Let's get it," instrumental "Ciara" and the beautiful Allen Toussaint rarity "All these Things," a slow and sensuous tune made for what George termed "belly rubbing." Gears shifted from sweet to slamming for the set ending segue fest that in actuality made up most of the set! I was amazed as George and the Partners threw down "Just Kissed My Baby" > "Babies Making Babies" > "Have Mercy" (ZZ Top) > "People Get Ready" > "Just Kissed My Baby."

You know it's a hot show when it's cooler outside than inside in Louisiana, and the band returned to the stage after a much-needed break and cooling off. The second set started off right with the Porter classic "All I do every day (is work)" and the snaking instrumental "Odiferous." The disco infused "Palette on the Floor" took the crowd back to New Orleans and George kept us there with the Meters' "Funkify your Life." Brint Anderson proved once again that the blues is still alive with an old-time juke joint rendition of "Hoochie Coochie Man" that had the crowd testifying. Not to be outshined, drummer James Vernardo took the beat to the streets with the unmistakable second-line beat of "Hey Pocky Way." An ecstatic crowd sang and danced along, shouting the call and return of "Hey Pocky Way" for a full few minutes while the drums kept the beat. Unfortunately, 2 am rolled around much too early, but George pushed the levels up just one more notch before closing time. As the crowd continued chanting, the drums morphed into the Caribbean beat associated with "Happy Song." Always a crowd favorite, the Runnin Pardners message of peace and love flowed over the crowd. Like a dirty joke, Brint threw in a smoking "Sneaking Sally through the Alley" into the middle of "Happy Song," reminding everyone to shake what mama gave 'em.

Exhausted and drenched, we poured out into the night quite happy. George matters. What else can I say?

Jeffrey Dupuis
JamBase | Louisiana
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[Published on: 9/28/03]

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