First, there was Big Chief Jolly (George Landry) and the Wild Tchoupitoulas, a Mardi Gras Indians group formed in the early 1970’s. George Landry’s sister, Amelia, had 6 children, 4 of whom became The Neville Brothers. If you’re not already a fan, click here to see why everyone else is.
In 1976, Art, Charles, Aaron and Cyril played with their uncle during a recording session and their band was born from that moment.
Then came Ivan, son of Aaron, and Ian, son of Art. 7 years ago, the cousins decided to form a band of their own and Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk was born.
There are legacies in Hollywood. The Barrymores and Fondas have produced 3 generations of actors and plenty of people working today are second generation actors including Kiefer Sutherland, the Bridges boys (Jeff and Beau), Kate Hudson, Angelina Jolie and Mariska Hargitay. I like legacies. I like continuity and apprenticeship. Maybe nepotism is unfair and sometimes results in hiring the wrong person for the job, but it also provides us with cultural touchstones, connective tissue between generations of fans. Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall’s daughter is on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar this month, modeling just like her mama did. I couldn’t help but feel like I was seeing a neighbor’s kid, someone who doesn’t belong to me but feels a part of my community.
I can only imagine what it must be like to have grown up surrounded by all the musical legacies here, to watch Trombone Shorty, son of trumpeter James Andrews and grandson of singer Jessie Hill, pick up a trombone at 3 and show the world that nature and nurture working together can create greatness. I’m coming to this party late, but better late than never.
Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk played this week’s Harvest the Music.
The show opened with Good Enough for Good Times, a band formed in the wake of Katrina when club owners were looking for bands to fill the empty stages left after the city-wide diaspora. Because the hurricane season is over, I have a lot more auditions lately and was only able to catch the last song. They were cute, young guys playing energetic, groovy music with a 70’s organ sound setting the tone.
Robert Mercurio on Bass and Jeff Raines on guitar both also play with Galactic. Turns out they’re both from the Washington D.C. area (my hometown) and went to rival colleges in Louisiana. Helps explain the Minor Threat poppy-punky feel to their funky music.
During the break, 3 of the people from Second Harvest, the non-profit benefitting from the concert, came onto the stage to do a rump-shaking contest judged by the crowd. The goofy guy handily beat out to 2 more earnest and attractive women but they were all great sports. I would have loved to get a photo, but I was too busy eating mac and cheese from Aunt Linda’s Soul Food while helping to feed the needy. To learn more about Second Harvest and how every dollar can feed a family of 4 one meal:
When Dumpstaphunk took the stage, it was like being at a family backyard barbecue or a neighborhood block party. The music was lively, yet comfortable, personal. Andy, a local, said he’d actually been to a barbecue at a Neville’s and that it was, indeed, a lot like the concert we were attending. There were lots of fun songs, many about “shaking,” whether it was about shaking it off or shaking your booty.
Oughta Know Better is a beautifully written plea for us to grow up and treat each other right with the promise that, “it’s gonna get better.” For Standing in Your Stuff, the group brought at least a dozen women onstage to dance. The crowd favorite was a woman I’d seen earlier in the sea of people. Clearly over 50, she easily had the best body in the park. Look for her front and center in the photos below.
There was a funny song, Put it in the Dumpster, that started by urging us to take our grudges and put ’em in the dumpster along with things like emotional baggage and regrets. As the song became more of a volley between the group shouting things and the crowd calling back, “Put it in the dumpster,” the lyrics slipped into other things to get rid of. Hide your weed from the cops? Put it in the Dumpster!
As I continue struggling to answer the question – “What is New Orleans music?” I know the answer lies somewhere in this band. Everyone in this band has played with other amazing bands in the city including the Funky Meters, as well as bands like the Rolling Stones. Each musician brings their own soul and personality without making themselves the center. The band is overflowing with funk and they definitely know how to put on a show, but I think it’s the intimacy that separates New Orleans from other flavors of music. There’s no emotional wall between the band and the crowd. We’re all just in it to have a good time. I’ll keep thinking about it though, puzzling out why this music speaks to me.
Dumpstaphunk self-released their first full-length album this year, Everybody Wants Sum. They play the UNO Lakefront Arena this Friday, then hit the road for awhile.
As the crowd went home and the clean-up began, an awesome drum solo emanated from the dark stage. I wandered over for a closer look and found a child banging away like a seasoned pro. About 40 of us stayed to hear him play. And the beat goes on…
Next Wednesday is the last concert of the Harvest the Music series. Artists include everyone from Allen Toussant to Walter Wolfman Washington. Hope to see you at the Square!