Today, iconic bassist George Porter Jr. turns 71. In addition to 50 years of serving up New Orleans’ funkiest bass lines, as a member of The Meters, George Porter Jr. was recently honored by the Recording Academy with a 2018 GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award, along with fellow honorees The Beach Boys, Neil Diamond, Emmylou Harris, Louis Jordan, Queen, Frank Sinatra, and Tina Turner. In February, Dead & Company made their long-awaited New Orleans debut at the Smoothie King Center. Three months after John Mayer’s pesky appendix forced the band to cancel its previously scheduled appearance at the venue, Mayer, Burbridge, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart, and Jeff Chimenti finally took the Big Easy by storm—and it’s safe to say this one was worth the wait.Dead & Company roared out of the gate with a “Feel Like A Stranger” that seamlessly veered into another Bob Weir/John Perry Barlow favorite, “The Music Never Stopped”. The tune offered Mayer an early opportunity to dive into an expansive jam, and he took it without reservation (while also letting out a solid Donna Jean impression behind the mic). “The Music Never Stopped” eventually gave way to “Cold Rain and Snow”, which quickly became the night’s first singalong as the crowd was bathed in light with each chorus. After three big numbers, Dead & Company took things down a notch with a gorgeous “Peggy-O” that put Weir front and center before meandering into a “Friend of the Devil” that elicited cheers with its opening notes.After wrapping up the American Beauty staple, Burbridge quietly abdicated in preparation for the night’s most delightful surprise: a perfectly executed sit-in from hometown hero George Porter Jr. of The Meters fame. The funk pioneer and bonafide Crescent City icon provided a sturdy foundation for a spot-on rendition of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning”, even playfully growling his way through his portion of the lyrics. Porter’s magnetic playing eventually drew in Mayer, who went to toe-to-toe with the New Orleans bass master during his solo—a move the pair would repeat with the “Bertha” and “Sugaree” that followed.While that “Bertha” was a certainly a treat, the “Sugaree” that closed out the set was arguably the night’s high point. Porter may not be an expert on the Grateful Dead canon, but “Sugaree” has been in his repertoire for some time, and his confidence with the song was on full display as he led the band through the Garcia/Hunter classic. If his smile was any indication, the tune was a special moment for Porter—just as it was for the thousands of people who showered him with applause as Dead & Company headed off stage.Checkout fan-shot videos of George Porter Jr.’s epic Crescent City sit-in with Dead and Company below:Dead & Company w/ George Porter Jr. – “Smokestack Lightning”[Video:btragal]Dead & Company w/ George Porter Jr. – “Bertha”[Video:btragal]Dead & Company w/ George Porter Jr. – “Sugaree”[Video:Jack Bosma]Happy 71st birthday George, and many more!Setlist: Dead & Company | Smoothie King Center | New Orleans, LA | 2/25/18Set 1: Feel Like A Stranger > The Music Never Stopped > Cold Rain and Snow, Peggy-O, Friend of the Devil, Smokestack Lightning*, Bertha^, Sugaree*Set 2: Scarlet Begonias, Fire on the Mountain, Truckin’ > Ship of Fools > Uncle John’s Band > Drums/Space > Stella Blue > One More Saturday NightEncore: Werewolves of London*with George Porter Jr. (The Meters) on bass, vocals^with George Porter Jr. (The Meters) on bass
Parents and teachers in New York City anxiously watched the city’s test positivity rate as it teetered near the 3 percent mark that would trigger a shutdown of in-person classes. So far, schools are still open. Athletes at Simmons University, in Massachusetts, have been staying in touch over Zoom while they’re away from teammates, Chloe Janes and Olivia Ray reported for The Simmons Voice. An opinion: “The California Interscholastic Federation should abandon any notion of allowing high schools to start football practice in early December with the intent of playing games in January,” The Mercury News wrote in an editorial. A good read: The Pew Research Center wrote a birds-eye analysis of how case surges affect school closings. “For now, the national COVID-19 surge that is overwhelming hospitals in some states has stalled any further movement toward opening classrooms,” Christine Vestal wrote. Here’s a roundup of comments from other members of Biden’s coronavirus advisory board: “We all hope we can reopen schools and colleges this fall, but only if the number of new infections is extremely low and controlled,” Dr. David Kessler wrote in a Times Op-Ed this April. He served as the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration under President Clinton and President George H.W. Bush. The incoming president’s coronavirus task force has said it would prioritize open schools over open businesses like restaurants, bars and gyms.“I would consider school an essential service,” Dr. Celine Gounder, a member of the task force, told our colleague Apoorva Mandavilli. “Those other things are not essential services.”Biden has promised money — lots of money — to help schools function safely. He has backed plans to send at least $88 billion to local and state governments, which would pay for protective equipment, ventilation, smaller classes and other expenses. In Washington, D.C., the school district and the teachers’ union have made headway toward a deal to start in-person learning. There are still some big question marks about the Biden agenda for schools during the pandemic.As Erica noted, “the president-elect’s closeness with the powerful teachers’ unions has raised concerns. Unions have come under fire from parents and school leaders who say their opposition to in-person instruction conflicts with science and students’ well-being.”The president-elect may also struggle to pass a big-ticket funding bill unless Democrats control the Senate, which will depend on the outcome of two closely fought runoff races in Georgia in January. Today, many parents use a map of public Wi-Fi locations to help their children get online, and students can often be seen hunched over laptops in cars parked within range of wireless routers.“It just adds insult to injury when you’re forced to sit in a McDonald’s parking lot to learn,” said Monique Felder, the school superintendent in Orange County, N.C.Around the countryCollege update An opinion: “Save the Season. Move the start back. Play league schedule and have May Madness. Spiking and protocols make it impossible to play right now.” That’s a tweet from Rick Pitino, the head coach of the men’s basketball team at Iona College, in New Rochelle, N.Y. Dr. Atul Gawande, a professor of surgery and health policy at Harvard University, said that targeted shutdowns are preferable. “On a ZIP code by ZIP code basis, you can deploy different restrictions in order to get the virus under control and it’s quite effective. We do not need to go into a nationwide, shelter-in-place shutdown.” “Schools, they need a lot of money to open,” he said during the last presidential debate.Biden has also said his administration would create national guidelines for school reopenings. It would also provide advice about remote learning and distance learning, and conduct research into how the coronavirus affects children. Systemically, it would work to close gaps “in learning, mental health, social and emotional well-being, and systemic racial and socioeconomic disparities in education that the pandemic has exacerbated.”President Trump, by contrast, pushed to keep schools open and threatened to restrict federal funding from noncompliant districts, but did not offer significant funds or guidelines to help meet that goal. Trump’s Education Department, reported our colleague Erica Green, “has all but absolved itself of tracking the virus’s impact and offering solutions.”- Advertisement – Dr. Vivek Murthy, the former surgeon general, has warned that reopenings “won’t be like flipping a switch.” In September, he tweeted: “When schools/universities reopen without appropriate precautions, they raise the risk of a #COVID19 surge.” Two Thanksgiving reads: As cases rise, students at Indiana University worry they might accidentally bring the virus home with them for Thanksgiving, Matt Cohen wrote for the Indiana Daily Student. And for The Times, Tara Parker-Pope and Julie Halpert compiled expert advice on how college students can come home safely for the holiday. – Advertisement – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan announced sweeping restrictions, including the suspension of in-person classes for college and high school students, to combat what she called “the worst moment of this pandemic to date.” In Massachusetts, some school districts are experimenting with “pool testing” — grouping samples, and then testing each individually only if the “pool” tests positive. – Advertisement – We’d love to keep featuring student reporting on the pandemic. Please email Amelia with links.K-12 update Several months into the 2020-2021 school year, things are bad and getting worse. Most American children are not in classrooms, with many suffering ill effects. The country seems doomed to face increasing coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths. There seems to be little chance of improved conditions for the rest of the year.So what will President-elect Joe Biden do about it when he takes office on Jan. 20?- Advertisement – Tip: Calculate your Covid riskResearchers at the University of Texas-Austin have created a useful tool to help families and school administrators make daily estimates of how many infected people are likely to show up at schools across the United States.The Times featured an earlier version of the model in July.Sign up here to get the briefing by email. Rural students can’t get onlineRemote school requires an internet connection. For students who live in rural areas, limited service can be a huge obstacle.Shekinah Lennon, 17, attends online class from a kitchen table in Orrum, N.C., a rural community of fewer than 100 people with no grocery store or traffic lights. This fall, the video suddenly froze. The wireless antenna on the roof had stopped working, and it couldn’t be fixed. Shekinah’s mother called five broadband companies, all of which gave the same answer: Service is not available in your area.“It’s not fair,” Shekinah told our colleague Dan Levin. “I don’t think just the people who live in the city should have internet. We need it in the country, too.”In rural parts of North Carolina, some children spend school nights crashing at the homes of more-connected relatives so they can get online for classes the next day. In one district, parents come to the school every two weeks to hand in flash drives filled with completed schoolwork and receive new ones, uploaded with lesson videos and assignments.“In school I made all A’s and B’s,” one 14-year-old, who has been forced to rely on flash drives to do his school work. “Now I’m failing.”For months, local education leaders have lobbied state and federal officials for systemic solutions, rather than Band-Aid fixes like hot spots.