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Feb 20 / Aaron

Message from the Galactic Alignment!

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Fact: Few bands on the scene today are as funky as Galactic. As a shining and always-fresh example of New Orleans’s extensive musical legacy, Galactic is second to none at bringing The Big Easy’s famed street-beat bacchanalia to an indoor concert setting. Try as you might, gettin’ down is your only reasonable course of action.

One of the many reasons I love catching Galactic live is the pure sonic energy that emanates from their stage—a musical strut of rhythmic proportions that dances confidently out into the crowd.  A mainstay of the live music and festival scene since forming in the early ‘90s, Galactic mixes the very best of rock, fusion, funk, groove, jazz, hip-hop, and whatever other moniker of body-moving music you can name.

In its current form, Galactic is a musical mash-up of Jeff Raines on guitar, Ben Ellman on saxophone, Rich Vogel on Hammond organ, Robert Mercurio on bass, Corey Henry on trombone, and Stanton Moore on drums (“on” is an really understatement, however; Moore’s polyrhythmic dominance over the kit is really a distillation of every conceivable Big Easy street-beat, second-line, Dixieland, and Zydeco bounce you can imagine).  As a life-long drummer, though, I’m very clearly biased… And yet, Moore’s mastery at condensing and replicating NOLA’s famed processional marches—usually performed by entire rhythm sections—with only his four limbs is unmatched in the drumming world.

For me, Galactic is one of those few bands whose sound, quite literally, compels you to move.  It’s an urgent plea, a musical entreaty, if you will, that demands a physical response—an involuntary and visceral reaction to the boom-boom-bat of grooves so deep in the pocket you’ll find them dancing next to your car keys.  Thankfully, almost everyone in the crowd will happily oblige, moving some part (any part!) of their body in perfect consonance with such funky musical cadence.  In put it another way, attending a Galactic show is really an open dare not to remain still.  Best of luck should you choose to resist!

Friday night’s show at the intimate and newly-renovated Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY, brought a number of unexpected highlights, most notably in the form of two absolutely stellar vocalists.  Flanked by Erica Falls, a New Orleans native with pitch-perfect soul, and the great Cyril Neville, a Meters man who needs no introduction, the living musical heritage of Crescent City was on full display.

Moving seamlessly from some of Galactic’s finest instrumentals to soulful renditions of Higher and Higher, Heart of Steel, Tell Me What’s On Your Mind, Rock Steady, Big Chief, and (a personal favorite) Africa, both Erica and Cyril proved effortlessly interchangeable but by no means in competition.  It was a pleasure to witness such comradery on stage, and delight to hear a fresh new mix of some of the best vocalists N’awlins has to offer.

Photo by Chad Anderson

A child of the Ninth Ward, Ms. Falls was raised on Church music and Patti Labelle, and made her professional debut on Bourbon Street nearly two decades ago.  Her bright and expressive voice soared effortlessly above the hard-hitting grooves of Galactic down below, while Cyril Neville (one of four uber-famous Neville brothers) offered a gritty but melodic vocal foil that embodies decades of musical talent and swagger.

Yet with 14 out of 18 total songs performed with either of these fantastic singers, we may be witnessing the birth of yet another of Galactic’s many incarnations.  As a bona fide, funk-ified aficionado of instrumental grooves, however, I’m fairly easy to please.  But many music fans might want a bit more substance—a little something more to grab their attention and keep it.  Vocalists, especially of this caliber, are often just the trick.  Though by no means am I suggesting Falls and Neville are mere acoustic window-dressing, I can—and often have—sought out Galactic’s best instrumental tunes (both live and in-studio) and played them on repeat while practicing at my drums for hours at a time.

With a groovy mix of musical tapas for all to hear, Friday’s performance was a 2-hour funk fest of inter-Galactic proportions.  When this band is in town, you should follow suit; you will not regret it.  Just don’t be afraid… to let your body move to the music—strike a pose, there’s nothing to it.  After all, it’s called a dance floor, and that’s what it’s there for!

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