Words by: Alex Borsody | Images by: Rob Chapman
Galactic :: 10.16.09 :: Brooklyn Bowl :: Brooklyn, NY
In just the past few months, a list of improvisational rock legends have played Brooklyn Bowl. Galactic was the latest band in this historic run. I last saw them two years ago when they were touring to support From the Corner to the Block, where they performed with different alternative rappers who contributed to their album, including Gift of Gab, Chali 2na, and Mr. Lif. Two years later, From the Corner to the Block is still their latest album, but they have stopped traveling with different rappers and returned to playing mainly as an instrumental funk band. For this tour Galactic added Corey Henry of The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, a Louisiana Trombonist who also drops the occasional rap. Opening for this show were the mash-up masters The Hood Internet.
Galactic is one of the most popular bands in the contemporary NOLA funk movement. This has been perpetuated in part by their influential management team, Superfly Productions, the force behind the Bonnaroo Music Festival. Galactic has also been touring incessantly for the past 15 years and their music speaks for itself. The release of their last album has moved the band in a direction with more of an urban appeal, but this show saw the band returning to their NOLA roots.
One great thing about instrumental funk, whether it be an organ trio like Soulive or a full ensemble, are re-worked covers of popular tunes. The first six notes of Jimi Hendrix's "Manic Depression" were instantly recognizable before they went into a loud trombone solo. During a heated jam, saxophonist Ben Ellman took out his electric harmonica, which runs a cable into an effects pedal. The distortion he used had it sounding like an electric guitar at times. The two chord jam segued into one chord, leaving a lot of room for melody and improvisation (think the Allmans' "Mountain Jam").
Corey Henry fits in so well with Galactic it's easy to forget that he's not an official member. Being able to adapt is one of Galactic's unique qualities. They added vocalist Theryl DeClouet (aka House Man) early in their career, returned to an all-instrumental group shortly after, and then went on a tour with various rappers. During the title track off From the Corner to the Block, Henry's dirty New Orleans slang worked the crowd. After gathering the audience in front of him by chanting, "Where my party people at!?!" Henry took a stage dive into the crowd and made his way across the sea of hands. After dropping to the ground, he sprang up and took his swagger back to the stage. He had another try at it later; this time making his way back and forth, safely guided by the trusting hands of the live music community. During "Chris Cross," Henry and Ellman took dual lead solos, passing the music between them as if they were talking to each other. At one point, Henry jumped atop the overhang of a doorway and started playing as the spotlight followed him. He proceeded to strut around the room, working the crowd into a frenzy.
| Corey Henry - Galactic :: 10.16 :: Brooklyn|
Other highlights from the night include New Orleans native Stanton Moore's solo on "Blackbird Special," a brass band favorite. Bassist Robert Mercurio also took a solo during "Crazyhorse Mongoose" with heavy distortion making the bass sound crunchy, like a metal guitar. Mercurio had his trusty '60s vintage Fender Precision Bass that he plays at every gig. The bass is almost identical to the Motown legend James Jamerson's Funk Machine, and Mercurio pays homage to his soulful forefathers with his timeless style. At one point, a drunken kid dressed in the height of Williamsburg fashion, jumped onstage and started trying to talk to the band, and it took a while before he was finally escorted off. Although he did his best to ruin the vibe, nothing could stop Galactic as they continued to grind away, barely phased.
Williamsburg is both extremely intriguing and repulsive. The streets have some of the most beautiful graffiti and art in all of New York, and it is a lively, safe community. Yet signs of excess and aggressive gentrification are everywhere. The vibe that Brooklyn Bowl brings to the neighborhood is a new and different energy that's humble, exciting, and nostalgic for the golden ages of music while working to create a new one.
Galactic is on tour now; dates available here.
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