Words & Images by: Andrew Wyatt
Galactic :: 02.12.09 :: Knotty Pine :: Victor, ID
"They get the girls off, and the rest of us peons, too." That's the initial description I received from a friend before catching my first Galactic show several years ago. Any concerns about the band playing the modest Knotty Pine bar tucked in the southeast corner of Idaho, were put to rest by saxophonist Ben Ellman, who exclaimed, "We are going to throw down and hard!"
And throw down they did. The New Orleans-based funk band including the bald-headed Ellman, Stanton Moore (drums), Robert Mercurio (bass), Jeff Raines (guitar) and Rich Vogel (keyboard) blazed through an early set of crowd favorites like "Chris Cross" and a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love." Led by Moore's machinegun beats and Mercurio's thudding basslines, the packed house danced recklessly with elbows and arms flying as only Idaho and Wyoming white folks know how to do. As expected, Galactic spent much of the first set mining the familiar bayou-based syncopated rhythms that have become the trademark of their jazz-inflected sound.
Adding to the homegrown feel of the first set were special guests trombone player Corey Henry of the Rebirth Brass Band and trumpeter Andrew Bayham. The guests reflected the direction Galactic is taking on the new album they are currently recording. According to Ellman, the new disc will include contributions from New Orleans favorites like Rebirth and Walter 'Wolfman' Washington and they are hoping to add Allen Toussaint to the mix. Still, he says the new album isn't a mere "return to roots" affair. "There are just people we've always wanted to work with," Ellman cautioned. "This was our dream."
The second set proved his point about diversity as they seamlessly and aggressively shifted from swamp blues to acid jazz, all while retaining some of their urban hip-hop influence featured on the last album, From the Corner to the Block. It was just the cure for a Rocky Mountain crowd that has suffered through the piss poor ski conditions of drought-like weather and sub-zero temperatures. The show had been sold out for nearly a month in anticipation of what some locals called the "high point" of the Rocky Mountain winter.
The band shifted into double time chord changes and counter melodies that proved danceable all night long. Henry jumped into the crowd twice for extended trombone solos and later body surfed to a back railing, where he towered above the crowd for a rap session.
Still, the band saved their best for last in a Mile Davis/Charles Mingus meets James Brown encore that included the Herbie Hancock hit "Rockit," which proved to be one of the band's most abstract, hard rock, bebop efforts, veering off the written melody like a drunk driver crossing the double yellow lines of a backwater county road. Yet somehow they kept the music on the pavement, leaving Idaho feeling intoxicated.
Continue reading for more pics of Galactic in Idaho...