Photos by Lou Montesano
Even the fashionably late arrived early for this one. Photographers roamed the floor and the video crews were ready. Show time was still 40 minutes away, but everyone knew something special was about to go down. This was going to be a party—Aaron Neville’s 75th birthday at Brooklyn Bowl—and his extended New Orleans family was on hand to celebrate.
With so much music in store, George Porter, Jr. kicked things off right on time, taking the stage with the Runnin’ Pardners, his NOLA-style funk, jazz and blues quartet. Porter’s roots run deep, having helped define modern New Orleans music as the bassist of the Meters, the seminal 1960s band that influenced generations of musicians beyond the Crescent City. Porter’s thumping bass got the Bowl jumping while Brint Anderson’s guitar added the hard-rocking riffs and bluesy slide that make the band’s sound so irresistibly eclectic.
Next up was Dumpstaphunk, a favorite of the Brooklyn music scene featuring Aaron’s son Ivan on keyboards and nephew Ian on guitar. With two bassists—Tony Hall and Nick Daniels—and a powerful horn section, Dumpsta can really bring the funk. For additional firepower, the band was joined by Brandon Niederauer, better known simply as Taz, the 12-year guitar phenom who can play with the big boys. Taz is no novelty act. Think of YouTube videos of Derek Trucks at the same age jamming with the Allman Brothers Band and you get a sense of what his talent is like.
Charles Neville opened the final set on saxophone and cowbell before introducing his brother Aaron. It’s hard to believe Aaron’s age. His powerful voice is matched by a powerful physique and the energy level was high throughout a lengthy set. No New Orleans party would be complete without the presence of Mac Rebennack, aka Dr. John. Dressed in a regal purple suit, the Night Tripper sat in on keyboards as photographers and fans jammed the stage to capture an image of the aging legend.
Eric Krasno, a Brooklyn Bowl regular, also joined the fun and added some guitar sizzle to the soulful funk. Aaron touched all the bases, from New Orleans standards (“When the Saints Go Marching In”) to reggae (“Stir It Up”), pop R&B (“Drift Away”) and Gospel (“Amazing Grace”). It might have been Aaron’s birthday, but the fans who turned out received the biggest gift.