Outside Lands Brain-Burner: Fire on the Bayou by the Meters

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Listen to this while high: Fire on the Bayou, by the Original Meters.

Behind the buzz: Buried w-a-a-ay deep on the bill at this weekend's Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival are The Original Meters, the slickest karass of funketeers ever to lurch out of New Orleans. Groomed for superstardom, they broke up late in the decade, but their superb back catalog went on to conquer the funky world anyway. In their day, these masters of regional funk opened two tours for The Rolling Stones, recorded with Paul McCartney, and appeared twice on Saturday Night Live back when that wheezefest counted for something. A major cult inevitably fastened onto their albums and won champions like LL Cool J, Queen Latifa, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Widespread Panic, and the Grateful Dead. 1975's Fire on the Bayou, a broad-gauged concept album about their home state, is likely the pick of a stellar discography. This lineup includes four of the five original members and plays to a sold-out crowd at the Independent tonight before their festival appearance tomorrow.

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Today's dope: A surpassingly brutal strain called Purple Dragon.

Carried away on Vieux Carré: Drop the needle (or press Play) and let the first cataract of indica smoke deepen your understanding while "Out in the Country" digs a warm chunky groove in the ears. "Fire on the Bayou" invites us into the Crescent City to bust a bottle of wine down our necks and huff a bit of gage as the long instrumental breaks sustain a mood of jolly lazy menace that must've had endeared them to Mick 'n Keef 'n Bill 'n Charlie. "Love Slip Upon Ya" lays the snaky, sexy voodoo down before "Talkin' 'Bout New Orleans" gives a foretaste of Fat Tuesday. Then, "They All Ask'd for You" ...



... takes us into full-tilt Mardi Gras mode. The last-named is one of The Meters' best (and best-known) joints: a jaw-dropping series of cheerily hilarious insults from your friends in the animal world that's still the best free advertising ever handed the city's Audubon Zoo. "Can You Do Without?" settles us back into groove and contemplation, with the taunting lyrics daring hardasses to imagine life without the rest of us. Their cover of Russ Ballard's "Liar" cuts even the Three Dog Night version and the edginess and betrayal that limns "You're a Friend of Mine" intensifies the shifty mood. "Middle of the Road" is another one of those long, meandering, hook-festooned instrumentals that shows off the true Metrical métier. "Running Fast" is a brief cinematic dash down Funk Street and "Mardi Gras Mambo" cakewalks us out in merry style, reminding us where the blues was born and how it takes a cool cat to blow a horn. Indeed. Psychoactive verdict: Awesome, dawg. ----
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Golden Gate Park, Speedway Meadow

John F. Kennedy, San Francisco, CA

Category: General

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