Saturday, April 18, 2009


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

(For the setlist, scroll to the bottom)

They're back! One good thing about living down in the South is that Galactic comes around pretty often, and we've been able to see them several times since we moved here.

Saxman Ben Ellman is the de facto frontman for the band since they became an instrumental quintet following the Fall 2004 departure of singer Theryl "The Houseman" DeClouet. Ben's blasting and blistering style brings the fiery heat to any Galactic performance.

Virtuoso drummer Stanton Moore has already left quite a legacy, with his various funky/jazzy side projects and his critically acclaimed solo albums, not to mention his collaborations with heavy metal luminaries such as Corrosion of Conformity and Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello. In Galactic he lays down his uniquely rockin' funky beats with earth-shattering power and explosiveness. It's hard to imagine anyone being able to keep still when Stanton's playing.

Keyboardist Rich Vogel is the soul of Galactic, delivering his smooth, bubbling Hammond B3 organ solos with a cool and classy restraint that sublimely offsets the bombastic fury of Ben and Stanton.

Bassist Rob Mercurio ("Bobby Mac") holds it all together, staying firmly in the pocket with his clever, solid basslines that reflect his decidedly non-funky D.C. roots.

Guitarist Jeff Raines rounds things out with his raw, unpretentious electric guitar work that summons the gritty sounds of both New Orleans and the Mississippi delta. Jeff's not a virtuoso by any stretch, and he is often criticized for his somewhat minimalist technique. However, it's worth noting that Jeff and Rob played together in a punk band before moving from D.C. to New Orleans and starting Galactic, which seems to be significant factor in forging Galactic's distinctive sound.

A typical Galactic show is a smashing good time, but in recent years they've made a point of bringing special guests on tour with them to expand their sound in new directions. The past couple tours featured various MCs rapping as the band explored the realm of hip-hop. For this tour, they've once again moved in a new direction, bringing a couple of virtuoso horn players to delve deeper into the soundscape of modern New Orleans.

Trumpeter Shamarr Allen is an up-and-coming New Orleans hotshot with a burgeoning solo career after doing stints with various New Orleans greats such as Rebirth Brass Band and Harry Connick, Jr.

Trombonist Corey Henry of the legendary Rebirth Brass Band plays with his own brand of intensity. Both Corey and Shamarr have that "all eyes on me" sort of stage presence that comes from extreme passion and confidence.

After a short opening set by Shamarr Allen and the Underdawgs (above), Galactic came out around 9:45 for one long 2-hour set and an encore. The setlist featured very little of their older material and plenty of the newer stuff, including a couple of brand new songs.

The first couple songs were just Galactic without the guest horn players. They started off by shaking the house with a concise, pile-driving "Moil" and then kicking back into the easy groove of "Linthead".

And then it was really showtime.

To kick off the first triple-horn segment of the show, they launched into a raucous, soaring version of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band's "Blackbird Special", featuring a uber-climactic three-way round-robin horn solo that had the crowd literally screaming for more.
Next up, the old Jimmy McGriff soul-funk tune "Chris Cross" featured Rich Vogel laying down layer upon layer of Hammond B3 sweetness, while the guest horns pushed the energy up just one more little notch.

Next up was "D-Boy", a title track from one of Corey Henry's other projects, the New Birth Brass Band. New Birth puts a modern twist on New Orleans brass-band music, and "D-Boy" is a far cry from the traditional second-line styles of Rebirth and Dirty Dozen, with its bubbling rhythm and bouncy low-end piano line making it sounding more like music to some kind of dark-alley action-spy video game. Corey and Shamarr floored the crowd with an epic trombone-sax duel on this one.

"Tuff Love" followed, a slower-tempo number with a cascading horn line and nasty guitar riff that conjures up images of a fancy low-rider cruising the streets of Vegas in the 1970s. Shamarr delivered a huge trumpet solo.

Then came "Teknochek Collision", another in Galactic's collection of Balkan-style covers, thanks to Ben Ellman's fascination with eastern European stylings. This one comes from a relatively new group from New York City called Slavic Soul Party. You can hear "Teknochek Collision" on their website - recently it was the second song in the site's audio mix. Needless to say, the horns had a field day with this one, and this wrapped up the first triple-horn segment of the show at the one-hour mark.

As is typical these days, Ben left the stage with Shamarr and Corey, and the stripped-down Galactic quartet played a brand new song called "Sagg Shootin' His Arrow". A high-energy number with a hyperactive bassline, "Sagg" has that Grant Green sort of soul-jazz feel to it...except for the part where it doesn't. Well, that's Galactic for you! (correction: This song is actually a cover of an old Jimmy Smith song. I should have Googled it first!)

Ben returned to the stage for a slamming "Doublewide", one of the band's most unique and quintessential songs. Unfortunately this was the shortest version we've ever heard, as it seems like they've decided the composition can stand on its own with no real soloing of any kind. It segued directly into a rockin' cover of Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love", as it typically does these days, with Rich playing Robert Plant's vocal parts on the Hammond B3. Then came another new song, "Saltbaked", reportedly penned by Jeff Raines. A typically muscular Galactic-style funk-rock number, "Saltbaked" was not particularly memorable on first listen.

And was showtime again. Enter Shamarr and Corey for the climactic home stretch.

First up was another new song in the Galactic rotation, labeled "Boban" on the stage setlist. This title likely refers to Boban Markovic, a musical giant in Balkan brass band music. It's not clear if this song is a cover of a Boban Markovic song, or if it's a new Galactic song written as a tribute. Either way it has that Eastern European flair, and this version featured another fierce round-robin horn crescendo.

Finally it was time for some of that classic old-school Galactic-style jazzy funk, with the title track to their second album, "Crazyhorse Mongoose". This song gains some serious power with the addition of the extra horns, and it was almost like hearing it in a whole new way. Corey Henry got the spotlight for this one, and he tried to put his own kind of crazy in "Crazyhorse", climbing down from the stage and trekking through the crowd blasting an extended trombone solo all the way back to the bar.
I guess he wanted to make sure the people at the bar get their money's worth!

Shamarr, meanwhile, made sure the girls in the front get lots of attention. At one point he traded sunglasses with a girl up front, and in the photo above, he borrows another girl's camera and snaps a bunch of shots from the stage, including this one of him posing with the owner of the camera.

Back to the music...after the craziness of Crazyhorse subsided, the rumbling thunder and wailing fury of the "Garbage Truck" brought yet another sonic assault. One of Galactic's heaviest songs (thanks to that rhythm section), "Garbage Truck" also received a significant lift from the extra horns, and the raw, pulverizing power had enthusiastic fans jumping up and down, headbanging and pumping fists like it was a heavy metal show or something.

Finally, to cap off the set, Shamarr and Corey grabbed the mics for a rousing version of the title track to Galactic's most recent album, the hip-hop flavored "From the Corner to the Block". And that's where things got really crazy!

After Corey returned to the stage, "From the Corner to the Block" still going strong, Shamarr started the chant, "All the ladies on the stage! All the ladies on the stage!"

And you can imagine what happened next...

The drunkest girls don't care who sees them dirty-dancing!


Clearly Shamarr and Corey relish all the female attention.



The energy level was just about as high as you could get at this point.


This celebratory, blowout version of "From the Corner to the Block" probably went on 15 minutes, as the musicians reveled in the festive atmosphere and close-up female attention.

For the encore, they brought out a couple guys from Shamarr's band (who opened the show) to play trombone and trumpet on the slamming New Orleans brass band song, "Buckit Like A Horse".

Needless to say, we had an awesome time, and Galactic remains one of our top 5 favorite bands. We haven't been able to find a recording of the show yet, but there are several recent Galactic shows available for free bittorrent download on the Galactic page at Etree.

To recap, here's the setlist from 4/15/09 at the Lyric Theatre in Oxford, Mississippi:

*Blackbird Special
*Chris Cross
*Tuff Love
*Teknochek Collision
Sagg Shootin' His Arrow
Doublewide (no solos) >
Whole Lotta Love
Saltbaked (new)
*Crazyhorse Mongoose
*Garbage Truck
*From The Corner To The Block

*%Buckit Like A Horse

Special guests:
*with Shamarr Allen and Corey Henry on trumpet and trombone
%with members of Shamarr Allen's Underdawgs on trumpet and trombone

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