I have seen Galactic on numerous occasions, mostly at festivals or opening up for bands like, Widespread Panic. I always enjoy myself but I can't say their shows have ever been consistent. Yes, they are consistently well down and put together but they always seem to have a revolving cast of unknown singers/horn players and they have never left me in that state of total musical annihilation, where I can barely pull yourself from the venue without tearing my hair out. This was my 25th show at the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia and I just want to thank the staff and management for keeping such a great venue intact . This is by far my favorite venue in Virginia. It's always an easy in and out; it has great sound, ample space and friendly security. If you have a chance to check out a show here, do it! You will not be disappointed.
Galactic started that night in standard Funk fashion, horns blaring, drums pounding; the sound was deafening, until my ears adjusted. The name Galactic sells itself. After years of constant touring, they are well-known for what they do within the Jam and Funk communities. After a few songs, a female vocalist with a great voice and long legs, shoved into tight black pants, came onstage. I couldn't really understand the lyrics to the songs due to the microphones mix and the high gain bass drum but I am not that familiar with their catalogue of songs, unless they cover standards in Rock, Funk, and Jazz. The female singer had great stage presence and this was my first time seeing Galactic with her as the singer, I was not unimpressed. I will say that Galactic always chooses a less well-known singer, who can really belt-it out. I like that because it gives fresh flavor to their songs and allows them to do a variety of covers. But I can't help but thinking that a stable front man or woman would be very beneficial for Galactic.
The songs that included the female vocalist seemed more, Pop-Funk oriented and I enjoyed their deep, dark Jams much more. Many times they took the music into Jam territory but when the opening band, Con Brio joined Galactic on stage, the horn section took over with jazz standards, trumpet and sax solos that all had that improvisational flare and a spectacular, wall shaking build up. I was really impressed with Galactics sax player Ben Ellman, who also plays a mean harmonica, an instrument that needs to be included more within the Jam music scene. They covered a few songs, my favorite being a funky, faster rendition of “Like A Rolling Stone” which they diversified in many ways.
The heart of this band is obviously Stanton Moore's hard-hitting drum beats and no one can deny his prowess on this instrument. While his sound is very original and powerful, it is also very muffled and full of gain, something that puts the drums upfront in the house mix and it just hurts my ears. The guitarist Jeff Raines is a standard funk/rhythm player who looks remarkably like Andy Richter, late night talk show host Conan O'Brien’s sidekick. I couldn't help but picture Richter jamming these funk tunes onstage. There were a handful of times where the guitarist lit some solos up, mostly during improvisational moments. Galactic wouldn't be a band without the core players, Stanton Moore-Drums, Ben Ellman- Sax, Rob Mercurio-Bass, Andy Richter/Jeff Raines-Guitar; this is essentially Galactic and any other musician would be hard-pressed to try and replace these members.
Galactic can truly jam out and they use improvisation techniques as well as any band I have seen live. After talking to a few friends who had recently seen Galactic on this winter tour, I realized that the song choices were basically the same, the real difference was the improvisational qualities, especially within instrumental soloing. I find Galactic to be more of a Pop-Funk outfit but there were a few times where they got dark and introspective, reminding me of their history and roots in New Orleans. NOLA music is joyous and exuberant but at the same time mysterious and haunting. This is the funk that really touches my soul, that dirty, deep, cajun-zydeco, funk that crawls on its belly out of the swamps of Louisiana to infest your ears and bore into your brain. Now that's the funk…
Jam Band Purist
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.