At the end of the first extended jam of their two-night run at the Variety Playhouse, a Mardi Gras medley that featured Iko Iko and Hey Pocky Way, Art Neville leaned into the mike and proclaimed "the funky METERS are in the house, y'all!" Now that they had arrived, the baddest funk band in the known universe proceeded to spend the rest of the weekend providing sick jams, tweaking the brains of unsuspecting newbies, and boldly funking where no band had funked before.

The Rebirth Brass Band was a special guest on Friday, and that may be one reason why the crowd was the larger and rowdier of the two nights. If you have never seen Rebirth for some reason, go get you some! That is some GOOOD music! Once the funky Meters hit their groove with the Mardi Gras medley, the rest of the Friday show was very strong. A spectacular People Say>Bass solo>Just Kissed My Baby sequence put me in orbit, then Brian Stolz, a criminally underrated guitarist, took charge with a scalding version of Voodoo Child. The band finished up strong with Ain't No Use before returning for a great Cissy Strut encore, with Saturday Night Fish Fry, Cardova, and Soul Island all sandwiched in between the opening and closing Cissy jams.

Saturday's crowd was MUCH mellower and smaller, and for a moment I wondered whether the band's performance would suffer from the lack of energy in the crowd. Silly me! They jumped right in with great versions of The World Is A Little Bit Under The Weather and Reform that got the crowd heated up, and unleashed an unbelievable version of Fiyo On The Bayou relatively early in the set. Cissy Strut was one of several repeats, all welcome in my mind, and this mid-set placement produced a totally different version than the Sandwich Special from the night before. No sooner had they hit the last riff of Cissy when they exploded into a version of Africa that literally had me jumping up and down in the aisles! I LOVE THIS SONG! For raw, nasty funk power, you just can't beat it!

A strong section that included Keep On Marching, Love Slip Up On Ya, and Look Ka Py Py finished up the set, but everyone knew that a killer encore would finish off the two-night run. We were not to be disappointed. Brian Stolz came out first and jammed for a bit, then launched into Seven Desires, one of his songs that I have come to love. This version was very hot, and segued seamlessly into Third Stone From The Sun. As a big Hendrix fan, I was ecstatic, and Stolz ripped off some mighty feedback blasts that did Jimi proud. Eventually the jam slowly faded into the most awe-inspiring drum solo I have ever seen. Russell Batiste, you are DA MAN! After the show, a friend of mine called this solo "completely disgusting", but he meant it in the best way possible! Once Russell had finished destroying our minds and rocking our bodies, the rest of the band launched into Ain't No Use.

If the version of ANU that they played the night before was great, this was simply spectacular. It featured one of the tightest stops I have ever seen, and the jam at the end built in intensity until the entire room was filled with the sounds of screaming, cheering fans, and then it built some more. When they finally dropped the bomb at the end, I have rarely seen an audience so thoroughly "hosed", to use Phish terminology.

Both shows were incredible, and all the band members deserve some mention. To me, George Porter Jr. is simply the funkiest, fattest bass player on the Planet Earth. His playing this weekend was so solid, yet always creative and never boring. Art Neville was at his best, his new keyboard rig (some kind of new, futuristic Leslies?) sounded great and his vocals were strong. Besides playing the sickest drum solo EVER, Russell Batiste was truly "The Guardain of the Groove" all weekend and supported the others masterfully. Brian Stolz continues to amaze me with his singing, songwriting, and incredible guitar playing. If you have never seen the funky METERS, what are you waiting for? If you have seen them, you know EXACTLY what I am talking about!

Rob Johnson

[Published on: 10/24/00]

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