The Meters and the word "funk" have been virtually interchangeable in New Orleans since the mid-60s, when the band came sauntering onto the scene with a sound that fused soul music's heat with a signifying swagger. They're best known for their hits "Cissy Strut" and "Sophisticated Cissy," but you'll find their essence in the stripped-down aggression of lesser-known classics like "Hand Clapping Song": a lurching rhythm track, hypnotically repetitious melody lines, and tough-minded improvisation combine to fuse melody and rhythm into a seamless danceable whole. Their hard edge might intimidate some, but it evokes the essence of revelry in New Orleans, a city where pistol-toting players like Stack-O-Lee get immortalized in top-ten hits and Mardi Gras Indians fire shards of glass out of shotguns to clear the streets for their routines. The only caveat is that half of these Meters are new: original organist Art Neville and bassist George Porter are on hand, while Brian Stoltz has taken over for guitarist Leo Nocentelli and David Russell Batiste Jr. has replaced Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste on percussion. Both Stoltz and Batiste have impeccable New Orleans session credentials, however, so this version of the band should still take no prisoners. Friday and Saturday, 10 PM, Gulf Coast, 2251 N. Lincoln; 929-4777.