Review: A party with a purpose
August 28, 2008
ASPEN ” Given the number of musicians (upwards of 30), the level of talent (impressive), and the mood of the room (celebratory), you would have thought there was neither time nor emotional space for a sober moment Wednesday night at Belly Up Aspen.
But Tab Benoit ” a bluesman, after all ” interrupted the parade of music at the New Orleans Traveling Road Show to speak about the environmental and political issues that threaten to devastate southern Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. Again. An impassioned Benoit informed the crowd that a second storm approaching Katrina levels would spell the end of New Orleans. He apologized for the seriousness of his tone, but he didn’t need to; even as he spoke, Hurricane Gustav was heading toward the vicinity of Louisiana.
But even the memory of Katrina, which landed three years ago Friday on the Gulf Coast, and another storm coming, couldn’t stifle the music. Seconds after Benoit moved from talking to playing, the party was back in full force, Benoit leading his Voice of the Wetlands Allstars. The Allstars were indeed the best of New Orleans, featuring Cyril Neville of the Neville Brothers, singer-songwriter Anders Osborne, a guest appearance by Woody Creeker John Oates, and bassist George Porter Jr.
When the Allstars had finished their set of blues-with-a-purpose, Porter reunited with two of his bandmates from the legendary funk band the Meters ” guitarist Leo Nocentelli and drummer Zigaboo Modeliste. The trio, plus Widespread Panic keyboardist JoJo Herman, charged through a rare set of classic Meters material.
Earlier in the evening came New Orleans-flavored jazz from saxophonist Donald Harrison, Jr. and his young band; and parade music by the Soul Rebels Brass Band, fortified by the Wild Tchoupitoulas Mardi Gras Indians.