Galactic | Karl Denson's Tiny Universe
12.31.01 Warfield Theater, San Francisco

New Year's Eve in San Francisco. With so many bands converging on this live-music mecca, it might be easy to second guess ones show decision. But for the 2000+ Galactic/KDTU fans at the Warfield Theater, it was an easy choice, and a memorable one as well. Walking into the historic Warfield Theater, you can't help but look at the photos of legendary bands who have graced the stage in years past. It adds to the vibe that this is a special place--and tonight will be a special night. Looking up, you notice balloons attached to the ceiling, but that is the only glimpse of what is to come during the next 7 hours. Electricity and happiness fill the air, as everyone is ready to bid farewell to 2001, and get their groove on.

Karl Denson's Tiny Universe hits the stage at 9pm, with Skerik sitting in before his Frog Brigade gig a few blocks away. A jazzy exploration of "Auld Lang Syne" starts the 2 hour set, with a mini Happy New Year at the end. A new song, "All the Brothers and Sisters" is next, heavy on the Afro-Beat sound that seems more prevalent in recent KDTU shows. It's a pleasure to see Zak Najor pounding the skins again--his power and finesse on the drums balances perfectly with Mike Dillon's intricate percussion work. Skerik leaves for his NYE, but you know he'll be back...

Chipito Ayeres (Santana), and his son Adrian come out on percussion for a raging jam (the name of the song escapes me). A mellow jazz interlude leads into "Never Get Enough." I love the deep, repeating bassline Ron Johnson lays down during this song, with Karl pleading "Gimme some of that funky Stuff." A song for all the ladies in the house, "How Fine is that?" has everyone dancing hard, and the party is just getting started. Chipito comes back out for a over-the-top version of "Elephants," written for Fela Kuti. This version was over 20 minutes long, and towards the end Karl asked the crowd to "pace yourselves"; before the call-and-response end of the song. Shoutouts to the KDTU family, then Karl introduces Fareed Haque with a story about them playing together at High Sierra. "Spanish Castle Magic" was a fun song, Fareed's signature soloing making it that much better. He really blends well with KDTU, and his appearance was an extra treat after his sit-in at The Fillmore. "Because of Her Beauty" showcases Dillon's xylophone work, and Chris Littlefield's trumpet playing. What sounded like an Irish jig segued strangely into "Fallin (BBQ Song)." It was a perfect ending to a great KDTU set. While the previous night at The Fillmore was more high-powered funk, this night was way more jam-oriented. That's not to say it wasn't a ripping set! Thank you KDTU!

The 30 min setbreak allowed friends to find each other, party favors to be passed out, and time to get a good spot up front. At about 11:50, the curtain rose to reveal an elaborate stage set up. Fire! was the theme, with "flames" shooting up on both sides of the stage, two huge screens with lava dripping down, fire dancers, stilt-walkers, and the Taiko Dojo drummers up on the second level of the stage. The performance percussion of the Taiko Dojo drummers was powerful, and Stanton was obviously enjoying playing with them. Galactic came out in matching metallic silver Houseman suits, and the countdown ensued. Balloons dropped from the ceiling, roses were tossed into the crowd, and everyone hugged their neighbors, saying goodbye to a year that will not soon be forgotten.

The fire theme continued into the set, with a wonderful combination of "Fire (Ohio Players)>Fire on the Mountain (G.Dead)>Fire (J. Hendrix)>Fire on the Bayou" with Leo Nocentelli. The Hendrix Fire and Leo's Fire were both spectacular. Leo stayed for a rousing rendition of "Hang Nail," then it was just Galactic again, ripping through "Go-Go," "Pocket Full of Sap," and "Royal Exchange." "Go-Go" was especially nice, an oldie that had the crowd singing along to the sax parts, and screaming out WOO! at the right moments. A new song, "Donkey Punch," was next, then Karl Denson and Fareed Haque came out for the squishy-funk goodness of "Shucktime," and a mind-blowing "Baker's Dozen." During "Baker's Dozen," the members of KDTU slowly came out and switched instruments with Galactic. Stanton played on a mini-kit as Zak took his turn on the big drums. The Houseman was back for "Villified" and a sick "SweetLeaf" to end the set.

The curtain rose for the second set, and the stage had been transformed into an underwater world. Bubbles and fish were projected on the screens, and the band members came out wearing the most elaborate balloon hats I've ever seen. The balloon guy stayed on stage and made hats for many of the people in the front row. The second set opened with an extended "Doublewide." There was a slow, melodic jam segment in the middle that would make a great new song. "Cheekybird" was followed by "Mind is Hazy," resulting in another sing-along. Most people there could relate, because we were hazy indeed! "Something You Do To Me" was a nice break, then we got a taste of the 2002 funk. "All Behind Me Now" is a new Houseman song with a deep blues riff and sampled beats. The whole Warfield resonated with the dark bass lines. "Chicken Pox," which sounds a little like "Cissy Strut" at first, featured Leo Nocentelli and Jeff Raines dueling it out on guitar. "Workin' in a Coalmine" toyed with my mind. This version was twice as long as normal, speeding up and slowing down to catch you off guard. "Blue Pepper" was incredible! Leo, Mike D, Skerik and Fareed Haque added so many subtle layers to this song, forcing you to either dance your ass off, or listen intently to what was going on. Use headphones to listen to this one, you won't be sorry!

Rob Mercurio's bass playing has vastly improved this year, and "Buckin' it Like A Horse" was a perfect song to feature his funky bass bombs. Towards the end of the song, the Drumstick Cam made its West coast debut. A miniature camera was placed inside of a drumstick, giving the audience a new perspective on Stanton's incredible drumming. Skerik hammed it up with Stanton, one of his Critters Buggin hand puppets playing with the drum cam, and somehow got his testicle up on the big screen! As soon as I heard the opening notes of "Shibuya," I knew the set was coming to a close. But this was no ordinary version of "Shibuya" -- the crowd intensity and the band's intensity made sure it was in the "best-ever" category. Special guests galore on this version, and again there were multiple subtle layers that were lost on the hyper-excited crowd. Make sure you listen closely to this one, too. People started piling onto the floor, fists pumping, and jumping 3 feet off the ground, making me feel like I was at a heavy metal concert. Except these were the nicest moshers I've ever come across. I can't say enough about the vibe at this show -- it was like hanging out with 2000 of your best friends in your living room, watching your favorite band play. A truly uplifting and special experience. Ben thanked us for coming out, and Stanton laid down a funky beat which he sampled as the band left the stage. The encore was "Ice Cold Daydream," one of my favorite new Houseman songs. Finally, a beautiful "Quiet Please" sent us off into the early morning fog, and the many after-parties to choose from.

Galactic has really matured as a band this year. Incorporating influences from its diverse opening acts in 2001, the Galactic sound has developed into an unstoppable funk-rock machine. Look for the evolution to continue in 2002, when they are joined by the Triple Threat DJ's for the Freezestyle tour. Thank you Galactic for a memorable 2001, and a NYE that will be hard to forget!

Allan Morris
JamBase | San Francisco

Photos by Jason Miller (

Karl Denson's Tiny Universe 12-31-01, One set ~2 hours

Auld Lang Syne*>All the Brothers and Sisters*, ?@, Never Get Enough, How fine is that?, Elephants@, Spanish Castle Magic#, Because of Her Beauty, Irish jig jam> Fallin'(BBQ Song)

* w/ Skerik
@ w/ Chipito Ayeres, Adrian Ayeres
# w/ Fareed Haque

Galactic 12-31-01
Set #1 shortly before midnight... (Fire theme)
Drums > Countdown > Fire (Ohio Players) > Fire on The Mt. tease (G.Dead) > Fire (Hendrix) > Fire On The Bayou*, Hang Nail*, Go Go, Pocket Full Of Sap, Royal Exchange, Donkey Punch, Shucktime#, Baker's Dozen#, Villified, Sweetleaf

Set #2 (Water Theme)
Doublewide (with extended jam), Cheekybird, Mind Is Hazy, Something You Do To Me, All Behind Me Now (new H-Man song), Chicken Pox*@, Workin' in a Coalmine*@, Blue Pepper*@%^, Buckin it Like A Horse@% > Drumstick cam jam@% > Shibuya@, Stantons Sampling...

Stanton's Sampling... , Ice Cold Daydream@ , Quiet Please@ ,/p>

*= with Leo Neocentelli
#= with Karl Denson
@= with Mike Dillon
%= with Skerik
^= with Fareed Haque
&= with Chris Littlefield

[Published on: 1/15/02]

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