If you’re ever in New Orleans you’ve got to get to the Maple Leaf Bar for a show. There’s nothing classy about the classic dive but it’s been a live music institution for the last forty years or so in a town that knows its live music. On March 28th, 2016 I took my own advice and hopped the iconic St. Charles streetcar far from the French Quarter to the nondescript venue.
While I was waiting my turn at the bar I heard someone order a Dark & Stormy. “What’s a Dark & Stormy?” I asked the barkeep when she nodded my way. She told me, I asked her to set me up and just like that I had a new favourite drink.
The ten dollar cover charge was all I had to pay for the privilege of seeing the great George Porter Jr. sit on the two-foot high stage and astound me with two sets of the funkiest bass playing I may have ever experienced. The ex-Meters bassman closed his eyes, shook his head from side to side and effortlessly extracted the most incredible grooves from his instrument all night. He was so counter-instinctive and so innate at the same time, and it’s hard to believe I got to witness that level of brilliance in such a small, fun room for basically no money. He had a total-pro keyboard player with him adding streams of harmony and the occasional solo but the what really got me was the third man in this magical trio.
Sitting sidestage facing the bandleader, the young drummer was so punchy, so snappy, so perfectly solid and just so blatantly musical he completely knocked me out. His solos sounded like horn parts; every shot, every flick of the wrist was another instrument in his symphony of percussion. He was so good he may just have stolen the show. I for one could barely take my eyes off of him and it’s not because he was overplaying or overbearing in any way – he was just so, so good. A really special player for sure.
I spoke to the drummer after the show and asked his name but I can’t remember it for the life of me*. It’s okay though; I’m sure I’ll hear of him again one day.
So yeah, if you’re ever in New Orleans get yourself to the Maple Leaf Bar. I’ve never had anything but a great time there.
*The drummer was Terrence Houston.