Aftermath: Dr. John at House of Blues

It must be getting close to Mardi Gras, because Aftermath swore he could smell gumbo during Dr. John and the Lower 911's roux-thick mambo "Goin' Back to New Orleans" Thursday night. (Either that or he really needs to eat more.) Too bad more people didn't feel the same way.

A good half the crowd seemed content to stand there passively, not even nodding their heads, or - here we go again - found their own conversations more interesting than the good doctor's gris-gris. Kudos, then, to the few couples who put the wings of the three-quarter-full House of Blues to their proper use: dancing the night away. Could have used a few more like you.

Resplendent in a purple suit any self-respecting pimp would kill for, Mac Rebennack and friends followed their opener's directive to "Keep That Music Simple." Like their leader traded off between B-3 and piano, the band alternated all night between seriously steamy (and deeeeeeeeep) Sly Stone funk-rock and vintage N'awlins rockin' pneumonia/boogie-woogie flu.

Baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber blew a lick as wide as the Mississippi River bridge during the hilarious cuckold's lament "Cabbage Head" ("I ain't never seen a cabbage with a hat on its head before"), while the rhythm section took over for the airtight "Up on Cripple Creek" groove of new song "Say Whut?" That groove was fat, steamy and humid all night, not lazy but not in a hurry either.

Eventually the 911 Unit made its way through about every style of Southern music imaginable: stinging Texas guitar blues, deep-friend Stax-y soul, Meters-like bayou funk and, naturally, homages to the great Crescent City piano players Allen Toussaint, Professor Longhair and Fats Domino. Not limiting themselves below the Mason-Dixon line, they also took side trips to the Caribbean and "Across 110th Street," and "Right Place, Wrong Time" could have been either primitive rock and roll or early-'70s Motown - Little Richard's "Good Golly Miss Molly" or Edwin Starr's "War," it was hard to tell which. Maybe both.

That said, at times the band stretched it out a little too much, and Aftermath's mind started to wander (generally toward his stomach). But they always brought it back home eventually, and Cukor's primo Coasters solo on the Mardi Gras finale - it's killing me I can't remember the name, but it's a piano lick as recognizable as Saint Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square - even inspired a few people to break out their white hankerchiefs and wave them around like good little second-liners.

"The Nevilles gon' hurtcha," Dr. John said by way of farewell. No doubt they did, but his appetite for New Orleans' musical gumbo sufficiently sated, Aftermath set off into the night in search of the kind of gumbo he could actually swallow.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray