Maybe Robert Walter had won the battle the night before, but we were in it for the long haul, so we roused ourselves and rallied for the fairgrounds. We headed into the Sprint PCS Stage where the crew was setting up Galactic's gear. It would be awhile before they were to ready to start, so we hit the main draw. Traversing the grounds, we picked up a 9 pack of lite beer and some fried green tomatoes, strolling by the craft booths, past the clamor of the Congo stage and off to the big ticket stage sponsored by Acura.
There we find Paul Simon, already crooning to the crowd filled with hordes of music fans. From first-time teenagers to seasoned long-time fans, all were swaying with the myriad of melodies and rhythms that Paul can pull from his extensively established repertoire and his 12-piece band. He pleased the crowd with old school, Simon and Garfunkel favorites, then switched it up, breaking out poly-rhythmic Graceland tunes. The highlights were aplenty, mine probably being “Late in the Evening” with its smooth soulful vocals and its jazzy crescendoed horn passages. As Paul finished up his set, he unsheathed his guitar, clasped his hands in prayer form, pointed them to the sky, and bowed ceremoniously, visibly pleased with the crowd reaction to his set.
The series of cheers brought Paul back out for a five song encore, extensive to say the least…surely that would be the last, but instead, Paul returned one more time to croon “Mrs. Robinson." We wandered back through the crowd as everyone else danced and swayed, enraptured by the song.
We headed back towards Galactic, assuming they’d probably be done by then, but instead found them cranking and wailing away for the cameramen who surrounded the stage. It looked like they were filming for a concert special and Galactic was more than happy to play it up for the cameras. Galactic was joined onstage by Skerik, and his percussionist from Critters Buggin, Mike Dillon. Skerik played the showman onstage and was decked out in his white leisure suit. As the jam for their closing song built, Jeff Raines, the Galactic guitarist perched himself atop his monitor, bobbing up and down along with his lead solo, as the boom camera loomed over the crowd zeroing in close on his fretboard fingerwork. Galactic was definitely psyched to fire it up for the hometown crowd, putting on a serious display. They finally wound down and let the crowd retire into the evening to get ready for that night’s festivities.
After some rest and respite we headed uptown to the Prytania mansion in the Garden District just off of St. Charles. The mansion was holding their annual party with kegs outside in the yard, and legions of partiers lining the elevated wrap around porch, spilling down the ornate concrete staircase and onto the gated lawn below. Entering the double doors of the mansion, we sauntered down the long hallway towards the main room at the end where the Newbirth Brass Band played.
Newbirth consists of 2 drummers, a sax player, a trumpeter, and 2 trombonists. Those that were psyched to dance melded themselves tightly around the band, sweating and swaying in rhythm. On the anniversary of what would have been Louis Armstrong’s 100th birthday, they crooned “What a Wonderful World” in honor of the jazz legend. The trumpeter sang away in his best gravelly voice he could muster, then finally rousing the crowd into joining the chorus by shouting “Everybody Sing!”
After the tribute, they led back into jazz standards, the trumpeter with his interesting one-handed playing style, rotating his trumpet 45 degrees in his mouth. As I danced up front next to the lead trombonist, I was forced to dodge around and under, weaving away from his slide as he wailed his leads. The trombonist eventually led his band and the crowd, parade style, down the hallway and out the door onto the lawn below. Playing and strutting the whole time, the whole party centered their focus on Newbirth. The groove held, but the band splayed out as the tumpeter wandered to the kegs to get himself a fresh beer. Bleating lines in time across the lawn, adding to the groove between sips when he felt the rhythm. As the band wound down, we decided to head out, and make our way back to the French Quarter for Galactic.
We hopped a cab to the State Palace and made our way into the theater where Galactic was already playing to the crowd. Houseman entered and crooned a couple of tunes, including “Actions Speak Louder than Words” and “Your love is such a Thrill." They were joined onstage by Anders Osborne for a few songs in the first set. But really, this concert proved to be an exercise in contrasts between the Houseman and Skerik. When the Houseman was there to sing, the band followed tightly in time, doing their best to support, but decidedly uninspired while letting Theryl do his thing. Then, when he eventually retreated offstage again, Skerik returned, firing the band back into frenzied excitement.
There were a couple of interesting covers laid down by the Gmen throughout the night, including the “Mission Impossible” theme as well as Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall." Galactic also put on an interesting display when they lined up a wall of 4 saxophones onstage ready to crank. Skerik and Ben were joined by the Critters Buggin bassist, Brad Houser, who was wielding a baritone sax, and Cheme from the 20th Congress with his alto. The sax quartet proved a rare treat, pleasing the crowd with a series of sax solos on "Charlie Dozen."
The madness permeated the show still further when Skerik somehow grabbed Stanton’s wallet, led Stanton from his kit to the front of the stage, and held it above his head while bellowing to the crowd something close to:
“Freak about it,
he had to unlock his wallet,
and think about it.
To think I have 13 children that can run from me.”
The cryptical lyrics escaped interpretation from the crowd, but the inside joke seemed to please those onstage, and when they’re happy, we’re happy.
The band was eventually joined not only by Cheme, but Robert’s bassist Chris Stillwell and percussionist Chuck Prada as well. A good groove and solid bass lines from Chris Stillwell, seemingly enjoying himself onstage, but not really looking to steal the spotlight. As the groove wound down, he glanced offstage at Galactic’s bassist, Robert Mercurio, and gave the beckoning nod, summoning him back to his piece onstage.
Nearing the end of the set, all the Gmen eventually headed offstage, letting the Critters percussionist, Mike Dillon, and the 20th Congress drummer, Chuck Prada, rile it up onstage with Stanton for a full on drums assault. Instead of weaving in and out of each other’s rhythms, the trio pounded in sync with each other in a frenzy of crescendoed build culminating in pure madness. Concluding the rhythmic display, Stanton stood and waved a kiss to the crowd as Mike Dillon snuck up behind him, and tossed Stanton over his shoulder, lugging him offstage.
Galactic’s encore included a Happy Birthday tease, assumedly in salute to Satchmo as well and let loose with all the guests in a 70s Miles/Critters free form jazzy entropy feel. Primal bashing of the drums, and Skerik bellowing into the mic. of his bell, one last crash from Stanton, then throwing out the cuckold sign to the crowd, perching himself atop his stool in preparation of a leap and a landing crash as he pounded one last snare. As the band retreated, Skerik slung his sax back and forth, seemingly hacking his way through the thickness onstage. He was met on the far end of the stage by the keyboardist Rich Vogel, who pretended to kick, smash and thrash the monitor onstage. The Gmen were decidedly pleased with the madness that was their encore.
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