Sunday, April 20, 2008


Friday, April 18, 2008

It's not often that one of our top 3 favorite bands comes through this little part of the world, so this was a big highlight for both of us. Needless to say, we made sure we had Carley's Mom & Dad booked in advance for babysitting. We've been tuned in to Galactic since before the turn of the millenium, and they've provided us countless memories of epic performances over the years, including a late-night blowout at Bonnaroo Music Festival last summer.

Essentially an instrumental band, Galactic starts with a healthy dose of New Orleans funk and pushes it into everything from rock and blues to hip-hop, klezmer and heavy metal. With the combination of their clever song-writing, gifted musicianship and exotic uniqueness, their funky, high-energy and often bombastic music is always interesting and engaging. Until a few years ago, the band also included a gravelly-voiced R&B/soul singer - Theryl "The Houseman" DeClouet - but with his departure in 2005 due to health reasons, Galactic has been venturing deeper into the realm of hip-hop.

Their newest album, "From the Corner to the Block", features over a dozen rappers from the progressive hip-hop scene, including Jurassic Five's Chali 2na, The Coup's Boots Riley, Blackalicious's Gift of Gab, and New Orleans' own Juvenile. In support of the album, Galactic has been taking many of the rappers on the road with them, and over the last year, typical Galactic shows have alternated between their trademark futuristic power-funk-rock instrumentals and the new hip-hop stylings.

For the Oxford show, the featured vocalist was Boots Riley, shown above with Galactic saxophonist Ben Ellman. Boots has made his mark with his own band, The Coup, a hard-hitting, socially conscious and politically-minded rap group from our former home in Oakland, California.

Virtuoso drummer Stanton Moore is arguably Galactic's biggest star. It his his unique style - a hybrid of New Orleans funk and heavy metal bombast - that truly defines the Galactic sound, and he has been very successful with several side projects as well. Stanton was in top form for this show, as he always seems to be. He doesn't look a day older than he did when we first saw him 10 years ago, and he his playing is stronger than ever.

Galactic guitarist Jeff Raines was in top form as well, digging in deep and nasty on several of the numerous raging crescendos throughout the night. Some consider "Jeffe" to be the weak link in the band, since his playing isn't as fluid or flashy, but he does an excellent job of rounding out their sound with his gritty, crunchy blues-rawking.

We had a good spot just in front of keyboardist Rich Vogel, who repeatedly took the grooves into the stratosphere with his rich, mellifluous Hammond organ solos.

Galactic are gracious hosts who love to jam with just about anybody, so it's never a surprise when special guests come out on stage. In the photo above, Jose Espinosa from the opening group Salvador Santana Band joins Ben Ellman for a double-sax attack on a cover of the Lionel Hampton standard "Hamp's Hump".

Salvador Santana from the opening band came out for the encore to join Boots Riley for some free-style rapping over a raging cover of the Led Zeppelin classic "Immigrant Song".

"The hammer of the gods
Will drive our ships to new lands,
To fight the horde, singing and crying:
Valhalla, I am coming!"

Santana, Riley and Galactic had the crowd practically jumping out of their shoes!

The venue was a mid-size cabaret called The Library, which is a really nice place to see a show. With its large dance floor and raised bar area around the sides and back, the sound and sightlines are good from just about anywhere. We're hoping some more of our favorite bands will play here!

Here is a setlist of what we heard:

Bongo the Dog
Sunday Araq
Doublewide >
Whole Lotta Love >
My Favorite Mutiny (with Boots Riley)
Gunsmoke (with Boots Riley)
We Are The Ones (with Boots Riley)

Hamp's Hump (with Jose Espinosa on sax)
Ride The Fence (with Boots Riley)
Busterismology (with Boots Riley)

Manic Depression
Black Talk
Five Million Ways to Kill a CEO (with Boots Riley)
Monkey Off Your Back (with Boots Riley)
Hustle Up (with Boots Riley)

Immigrant Song (with Boots Riley and Salvador Santana)

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