In 1968, I had a job as a second barman in New York City at The Scene, a small but famous club. People like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix came through and played there. One of the second barman’s duties was to take full drinks to the performers in the closet-sized dressing room behind the stage, and come back with the empty glasses and bottles. Of which there were usually quite a few. I stacked them on a tray and manoeuvred my load in and out of the stars’ quarters. The only person out of the whole pack who ever held the door open for me was Mac Rebennack, whose stage name is Dr. John the Night-Tripper.
More than forty years later, at his July 12th concert in l’Auditori, he continued to be a mojo man with heart. He’s an old New Orleans soul wrapped in a purple leisure suit, green shirt, wearing a beat gray fedora and dark glasses, a bearer of the torch passed along by the best of the New Orleans’ boogie-woogie piano players like Professor Longhair, or Fats Domino. The Auditori was transformed into Tiptina’s—perhaps the Crescent City’s most emblematic club--for the evening, except here no dancing was allowed.
Nevertheless, Dr. John and his band The Lower 911 kept feet tapping and hands clapping. John Fohl on guitar, Herman Ernest III on drums and David Barard on bass boogied side by side with the doctor who played piano, guitar, and Hammond B-3 organ, while wrapping his smoky New Orleans voice around his songs. They ranged from internationally-known numbers from the 1960s and 1970s like “Walk on Gilded Splinters”, or “Right Place, Wrong Time”, with cuts off his latest album, Tribal, recorded with the Lower 911.
The show was a sell-out in l’Auditori’s Sala 2, with a lot of gray-haired folks in the audience and plenty of young, tattooed, heavily pierced bodies in attendance, but not too many folks of in-between age. Everyone who did show up came away with their own dose of Louisiana gris-gris, courtesy of the doctor.