George Porter Jr. Birthday Bash

Howlin' Wolf

December 26, 2006

I'm so spoiled with George Porter. Since he plays so much, I never think it's a big deal to see him play, but I always have a great time.

Porter celebrated his 59th birthday at The Howlin' Wolf the day after Christmas, and he had a little help from his friends doing it. Porter's normal Runnin' Pardners band was augmented by appearances by Funky Meters guitarist Brian Stoltz and Meters keyboardist Art Neville.

I'll get to Neville in a second, but I don't want to go any further without mentioning how important it was to have Russell Batiste, Jr. on drums. Porter seems to have no qualms with having Batiste be the unspoken bandleader. When no one wants to make decisions onstage, Batiste makes them. He also keeps the songs wacky and fun with his vocal inflections. I wondered for a while who was making those funny noises, but then I figured out it was Batiste. Dare I say, that with Russell at the helm, the group was more of a rock band than a funk band. The hard-edged stuff they pulled off was a little too evil to be funky. And, also, I can't foget the great cover of Neil Young's "Down by the River."

How mother-frickin' cool was it that Art Neville joined the band for "Fire on the Bayou" and "Hey Pocky-A-Way"? I know Neville doesn't get out much anymore, and that's when he's living here. I'm not even sure if he's living here, the point being that Neville's appearance was special. And just to see Neville kid around with Porter and rag on him about his age and see Porter dote on Neville--I had to take a snapshot in my mind. I know someday people are gonna be amazed I got to see Porter and Neville play before they died. At one point, Porter shot a friendly barb back at Neville, and Neville said, "Shut up, man." The crowd started laughing, and it was such an awesome, natural, and real moment shared from people who have accomplished so much.

What's more New Orleans than Neville playing with Porter? Awesome, awesome, awesome!

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