Words by: Rich Lieberman :: Images by: Robert Chapman
Dumpstaphunk & Cowboy Mouth
02.01.07 :: B.B. King's Blues Club :: New York, NY
The brisk walk up 42nd Street through Times Square brought to mind how the area has changed over the years. What was once addict alley and sleaze central is now filled with bright lights, themed restaurants, and chic tourist shops. One can't help but feel the electricity of the city and the pulse of its people. A similar sense of energy is felt when walking down Bourbon Street in The French Quarter. On this night, the best of New Orleans and New York City collided.
Ivan Neville & Tony Hall :: Dumpstaphunk :: 02.01.07
The marquee above B.B. King's Blues Club read "The 9th Annual NYC Rock 'N Roll Mardi Gras Tour! Tonight!" The sleek B.B. King's is a far cry from New Orleans' Tipitina's or the Maple Leaf but the NYC vibe this night was pure festival season. The appetizer was a heaping portion of spicy hot Louisiana funk served up by Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk, a band consisting of some of the funkiest New Orleans musicians alive. The evening's main course was one the Crescent City's favorite party bands, Cowboy Mouth, whose maniacal, larger-than-life frontman and drummer, Fred LeBlanc, led a sermon on the joys of life, asking the faithful fans to check their problems at the front door and enter Mardi Gras heaven.
Dumpstaphunk was glad to be back in NYC. This was the third time they have graced the stage at B.B. King's, but their first time as the supporting act. "It's been fun. We've been playing a little bit earlier than we normally play but it's been cool," said Ivan Neville backstage before their set. "We just go out there and throw some funk down, because these guys [Cowboy Mouth] are just totally different from what we do."
Nick Daniels, Ian & Ivan Neville
Backstage - B.B. King's :: 02.01.07
Dumpstaphunk is indeed ready to usher in a new age of funk to the masses. Many still think this lineup is a part-time project, and although it may have started out that way, Neville wants to put that buzz to rest once and for all. "This is a band. We want people to know that. It's not just an all-star group of New Orleans musicians," Neville says. "This is a group of the best New Orleans musicians that I know and we play in one band together. This is a band, and we treat it like a band. You know, my name is up there as Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk but this is a band."
With a new studio album, festival dates, and more touring as a headlining act on the horizon, Dumpstaphunk is here to stay. The funky five that make up Dumpsta all hold impressive credentials with resumes that boast playing and touring with some of the biggest names in the business. Through the years, Ivan Neville (vocals, keys, guitar, bass) has played with the Neville Brothers, the New Orleans Social Club, Keith Richards X-pensive Winos, Bonnie Raitt, The Rolling Stones, John Mayer, and Gov't Mule. The other members have played or toured with the likes of the Neville Brothers, Trey Anastasio, and Dave Matthews, to name just a few. They are Tony Hall (bass, guitar), Raymond Weber (drums), Nick Daniels (bass) and Ian Neville (guitar).
Ian & Ivan Neville :: Dumpstaphunk :: 02.01.07
As a group they each bring something unique to the table, resulting in some of the funkiest grooves since the legendary Meters. In fact, the comparison between the two bands was inevitable, as Ian Neville's dad, Art Neville, is a founding member of The Meters. The comparison is taken as a compliment and welcomed by the band. "It's a major honor because we all grew up listening to The Meters," says Weber. "That was the whole reason I started playin' music, especially for me comin' up as a drummer. You hear some stuff Zig [Zigaboo Modeliste] laid down and that's it!"
Ivan Neville - Dumpstaphunk :: 02.01
Still Dumpstaphunk feels like it has created its own funky niche. "I don't know any other bands that are called straight up funk bands," says Ian Neville. Ivan picks it up, "We've got that edge. We are tight. We have probably rehearsed all of four times in the four years we've been together. We leave that edge on there. We gotta have that edge. We want to keep it fresh. That edge will take us in different directions on any given night."
Dumpstaphunk took the stage ready to show New York that edge and get the half full house of what looked to be Cowboy Mouth fans movin' and groovin'. Playing the opening slot with a much shorter set time then usual, Dumpstaphunk wasted no time gettin' busy, mixing tasty originals in with a healthy blend of crowd pleasing covers. The chill from outside quickly thawed as a deep dirty double bass line powered the band into the theme song from The Sopranos. The band pushed hard, working to get the club in the groove.
Ivan Neville's strong vocals came through on the Creedence Clearwater Revival cover, "Fortunate Son," which was recently recorded by Ivan for the all-star side project, The New Orleans Social Club. It was now Nick Daniels' turn to front the band on lead vocals for, "Turn This Thing Around." The powerful lyrics pay tribute to the people of NOLA, who received little help when they needed it most following Hurricane Katrina. Daniels shined while scatting the bass lead.
Tony Hall - Dumpstaphunk :: 02.01
Following band introductions, they broke out a new number from their yet-to-be-titled studio effort called "Meanwhile," a smooth song with hard hitting lyrics about the need to let loose during difficult times: "Meanwhile, you might as well have a good time, there might not be a next time, go and shake your pretty booty."
Next up, Tony Hall brought the house down with an amazing tribute to the late great James Brown. The performance was complete with all of Brown's signature moves. Hall commanded the stage and took a blazing guitar solo to boot. The band was feeling it and the house was jumping big time as they ended their high energy set with Sly and The Family Stone's "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)." This crowd pleaser left everyone begging for more.
With the audience now sufficiently warmed up, it was time to keep the Mardi Gras party going with Cowboy Mouth. For the past 16 years at nearly 200 shows a year, Cowboy Mouth has produced a loyal fan following around the country. This year they headlined their 9th Annual Mardi Gras party in New York City and their fans were out in full force and ready to party. One could not be a mere spectator at this show. It was all about crowd participation.
Cowboy Mouth :: B.B. King's :: 02.01.07
From the outset, it was easy to see that these guys have good time party music down to a science, as Fred LeBlanc opened the set with an a cappella version of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow." LeBlanc sat high atop a drum riser, front and center stage, wearing shorts and playing barefoot. The message from Fred tonight was, "Believe in yourself, and anything is possible."
With the audience already in the palms of their hands, LeBlanc (drums and vocals), John Thomas Griffith (guitar, vocals), Sonia Tetlow (bass, vocals) and Vance DeGeneres (guitar, vocals) [and yes he is Ellen's brother] were off to the races. Cowboy Mouth ripped through a diverse, intensely played setlist filled with rockers, fun covers, and country songs, all mixed together just right much like a bowl of spicy gumbo.
Fred LeBlanc - Cowboy Mouth :: 02.01
The title song from their most recent release Voodoo Shoppe was soulfully played as it segued into The Meters' classic, "Cissy Strut," before heading back into "Voodoo Shoppe." It was quite interesting to see Ian Neville, who was standing side stage, taking in the song that was long ago written by his father Art. When asked about it after the show, Ian replied, "They play it well, and it's cool when bands play it."
Cowboy Mouth paid homage to Bo Diddley, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Bruce Springsteen amongst others. But, this night it was their own catchy, well-written tunes that drove their message home. Between each song LeBlanc would shout "Are Ya With Me?" to be sure the crowd was in lock step. LeBlanc also repeatedly shouted, "The name of the band is?" The dancing revelers, happily drenched in sweat, would shout back, "Cowboy Mouth!" At one point during "Everyone Loves Jill" the crowd tossed red plastic spoons at the band. Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" closed out the main set.
At midnight, the happy masses were begging for just one more song. The encore included "The Avenue," a song written in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. LeBlanc dedicated the song to New Orleans and explained that after the storm he wanted to write something that would remind everyone about all of the great things New Orleans has to offer. He also wanted to let everyone know that everything would be alright and better days would come, the Mardi Gras parades will ride again. This evening provided further proof that Crescent City's musicians are leading that parade.
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