In a video clip broadcast on Australian TV last week, Prime Minister Julia Gillard warned that predictions by ancient Mayans about the end of the world were correct and that the final days are coming.
She was joking, but some folks around the world fear that something dire might happen on Dec. 21, because of a supposed Mayan prophecy linked to that date.
A recent New York Times headline announced: "Russia attempts to quell end-of-the-world panic." And in Shanghai, Chinese police have issued public warnings about the doomsday. A Google search of the date reveals 2.7 million results.
New Orleans-based Dumpstaphunk will funk things up on Dec. 21 and 22 at Camp Keanae.
MICHAEL WEINROB photo
So with some a little concerned, savvy promoters on Maui have come up with the perfect antidote - a Funk Da End a Da World festival at Camp Keanae, headlined by legendary New Orleans-based musicians George Porter, Jr. and Runnin' Pardners, and Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk.
As a member of the seminal New Orleans band the Meters, bassist George Porter helped create the super funky sounds that made the group legendary and highly influential amongst funk, jam band and hip-hop artists. Often in demand, Porter currently tours with his own band, the Runnin' Pardners, as well as the funky METERS, the 7 Walkers with Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann and voodoo guitarist Papa Mali, and most recently with the Tedeschi Trucks Band. And as a seasoned musician, he's worked with numerous artists including Paul McCartney, Jimmy Buffett, David Byrne, Dr. John, Patti LaBelle and Robbie Robertson.
Last year, Porter and the Pardners revisited some golden songs from the Meters' catalogue on the deliciously infectious CD "Can't Beat the Funk."
"I've been pushing to get them played," says Porter about the collection of tunes that were never performed live. "I didn't think it made any sense to reproduce the original versions, so I wanted to embellish them and stretch out a bit."
So what inspired one of the greatest bassists in modern musical history to adopt his instrument?
It was the Vietnam War.
"I started playing bass because of a need at the time," he recalls. "A lot of the electric bass players were drafted, and I was too young to get drafted. There were tons of great guitarists, but no bass players. I was originally a guitar player and I figured I had a better chance of working playing gigs as a bass player."
The Meters were formed in 1965 with a lineup of keyboardist and vocalist Art Neville, guitarist Leo Nocentelli, and the rhythm powerhouse of bassist Porter and drummer Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste, with vocalist Cyril Neville joining later.
Up for nomination next year in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, the bio on the band's website notes: "James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone and Parliament-Funkadelic all coasted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. Yet one of the true cornerstones of funk is still waiting for induction. The Meters were not only the leading instrumental unit to emerge from the great musical gumbo of New Orleans, they were also one of the tightest and hardest-grooving ensembles R&B has ever seen."
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the band released a string of irresistible singles including "Sophisticated Cissy," "Cissy Strut," "Look-Ka Py Py" and "Chicken Strut."
These funk classics caught the attention of British musicians including Mick Jagger, who once hailed them as, "the best band in the world."
"The records were very big in Europe," Porter explains. "Even today The Meters are more known in Europe and Asia than the U.S. We weren't chart name musicians in the U.S., we were musician's musicians. The Funky METERS went to Australia about four years ago and it was unbelievable. It was like we were the Rolling Stones."
Paul McCartney was also a major fan of the band.
"I met Paul and Linda McCartney when we played in London," he recalls. "And then he came to New Orleans to record 'Venus and Mars' and I went down to the studio and Linda recognized me immediately and told him, 'Your favorite bass player is here.' We recorded a Mardi Gras song with Paul."
It was Ron Wood who first championed Porter and the Meters to his Rolling Stone mates. The Stones invited the band to open for them on their Tour of the Americas in 1975 and their 1976 Tour of Europe.
"Ron Wood was a big Meters fan from the days when he was in the Faces," Porter notes. "Ron, being close to Keith (Richards), suggested we open some shows on the U.S. tour in '75. And Jagger was really pleased with us and we were invited to open the European tour in '76."
With the rise of hip-hop, the Meters became familiar to a new audience when their songs were often sampled by the likes of Heavy D, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, Run DMC, NWA, Ice Cube, Cypress Hill, Public Enemy, and the Beastie Boys.
Hip-hop artist Zach "DJ Z-Trip" Sciacca recently told the San Francisco Chronicle the Meters' catalog remains required material for any aspiring turntablist. "They're like DJing 101," he said.
"The hip-hop community embraced our music, but they kind of stole it," Porter reveals. "They were using our music and not crediting us or even paying us for it. The funky METERS were headlining at a college in California and a hip-hop band was opening. We played a medley of songs and I noticed the opening act were jumping around at the side of the stage. We were playing songs that got sampled, and at the end of the performance the guys from the band came over going 'You played a version of those old hip hop songs.' So (drummer) Russell Batiste went off on them, 'Those songs you're all calling hip-hop songs were originally Meters' songs. Those hip-hop artists stole them.' It was really funny."
Making his second visit to Maui, Porter is looking forward to bringing over the Runnin' Pardners.
"I really enjoy playing with these guys," he says. "It's a really fun band."
There's more great funk on the bill with fellow New Orleans' musicians Dumpstaphunk, who have a new album ready for release next year. It's a tribute to their exemplary musicianship that the recording attracted a bunch of guests to help out including Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ani Di Franco, Trombone Shorty, the Rebirth Brass Band and Art Neville of the legendary Neville Brothers.
Formed in 2003, Dumpstaphunk was initially assembled by keyboardist Ivan Neville to perform at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The ensemble included two bassists, Nick Daniels and Tony Hall, and his cousin Ian Neville on guitar. Former Beyonce drummer Nikki Glaspie later joined what is now widely considered one of New Orleans' most prestigious modern funk ensembles.
"Nikki is a killer drummer," says Ian Neville, the son of Art "Papa Funk" Neville, the keyboardist who co-founded the Meters and the Neville Brothers. "She brings another younger element to the band."
The son of Aaron Neville, Ivan has either recorded or performed with the Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, the Neville Brothers, Gov't Mule, John Mayer, Keith Richards and The X-pensive Winos.
"Our families were connected with the Stones through the Meters," says Ian. "Then Ivan was in Keith's band The X-pensive Winos in the '80s. They've been pretty thick since then."
A major player on the festival circuit, Dumpstaphunk has wowed audiences at Bonnaroo, VoodooFest, New Orleans Jazzfest, High Sierra, All Good, Gathering of the Vibes, Dave Matthews Band Caravan and Monterey Jazz Festival.
"Dumpstaphunk is the best funk band from New Orleans right now," praised The New York Times. And Gambit Weekly raved: "Dumpstaphunk's groove is a unique monster. If you're under 35, you think you've seen funk, but you haven't. You missed the original Meters, James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic's landing of the 'Mothership,' Sly and the Family Stone and Booker T. and the M.G.s. Dumpstaphunk is as good as all that, and they're in their prime now."
"It's fun to watch people wow out at shows," says Ian. "It's great to have a good audience jamming and sweating and dancing."
* The "Funk Da End a Da World" festival will be on Dec. 21 and 22 at Camp Keanae. Gates open at 10 a.m., music at noon. Headliners are George Porter, Jr. and Runnin' Pardners, and Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk. The lineup includes DJ Logic, Monophonics, Big Sam, Jug Dealers, Afromassive, Brown Chicken Brown Cow, Kanekoa, Bruddah Waltah, Afrolicious, Maui Underground, MothXP, Ultra Violets, Flash Drive, and the Kit Kat Club Cabaret. Capacity is limited to 500 people. Tickets are $185 and $200 at the door and may be purchased at www.mauidawg.com. There are also a limited number of VIP tickets available for $400, which includes dinner both nights and limited edition festival merchandise. Admission includes two days of live music and camping. Children 12 and younger are admitted free.