Two of the finest flavors in the south came together for a wild night of music and mischief when one of New Orleans' freshest acts traded its Cajun sensibility for one of authentic Texas barbeque to cook up a funktastic show in Austin. After kicking off its ambitious "Sight of Sound" tour in Dallas the night before, Galactic pulled out all the stops at Stubb's BBQ for a Halloween extravaganza, with the band in full regalia. A large and lively Austin crowd was there to eat up every second of it.

When Galactic plays on Halloween they make it a point to join in on the fun, and this year was no exception. Giving a nod to Stubb's reputation for the food in its adjacent restaurant, the band took the stage adorned in uniform aprons and fry cook hats, donning the appearance of a team of butchers straight out of the 1950s. To give costume a spooky effect, the hats and aprons were splashed with fake blood, and a skeleton figure representing Stubbs, the legendary barbeque cook himself, sat on the stage throughout the show.

The stage's backdrop is an integral part of the "Sight of Sound" tour featuring the abstract artwork of New York's SKW and Doze Green. These artists have made a name for themselves not only as visual artists, but also in film and music. Although they have worked with diverse performers including Smashing Pumpkins and Wynton Marsalis, the artists are known for their collaborations with hip hop acts such as Shabba Ranks, Busta Rhymes, Mos Def and Guru.

Although the artists are expected to join Galactic onstage to paint along with the music during shows later on the tour, they were not around for the Austin stop. Nevertheless, the captivating backdrop mural, along with extra decorations for Halloween created a distinct setting, which gave the show a unique vibe unlike Galactic's typical setup.

But the multimedia aspect is one of the least obvious ways in which Galactic's performance has evolved over the last few years. The band continues to get tighter and more cohesive, as they incorporate new sounds into the mix. No longer just a new-school funk band, Galactic creates a fusion of funk, jazz, rock, soul, electronica and something altogether unique, and the jams get deeper while the collaborations get more diverse. Their knack for long shows in their hometown and beyond has given them the opportunity to develop the ability to groove and improvise - both individually and collectively.

Austin's Halloween show started off with a bang. The band came out munching on sausage and ribs, going along with the costume theme. After a brief warm-up jam, the always impressive Stanton Moore took a drum solo using a rib bone in place of one of his sticks during "Baker's Dozen." Though he started the night playfully, Moore's drumming was deft and mesmerizing throughout the night, hooking up with bassist Rob Mercutio to create Galactic's powerful and multi-layered rhythmic core. The jam flowed effortlessly into "Moog Marmalade," showcasing Rich Vogel's increasingly expansive keyboard arsenal and Ben Ellman's hypnotizing saxophone.

Midway through the set, Theryl "Houseman" deClouet emerged from a coffin onstage to assist the band with his soulful voice. Shortly thereafter, Galactic welcomed saxophonist Brad Houser of Critters Buggin and The New Bohemians to sit in for a few numbers. Houser's style complemented Ellman's playing, and he stuck around for "Hit the Wall" and "Buckit Like a Horse," which closed the set.

During the break, there was a costume contest which gave the audience a chance to recognize the more creative and ambitious members of the crowd. The band was onstage to check out the action, and a $500 prize was at stake for the winner. Although the crown was given to Papa Smurf, honorable mention should be given to a group costume of The Royal Tenenbaum family, an uncanny resemblance of Buckethead and, of course, a guy dressed up as a huge doobie, complete with smoke rising from his head.

The second set was just as rowdy as the first, highlighted by an absolutely raucous version of "Crazyhorse Mongoose" early on. Local talent Bruce Hughes, formerly of The Scabs, joined the band on bass for "Root Down." After he left the stage, the band kept churning out the funk, culminating with a transcendent take on "Tiger Roll" to close things out. The show ran long for Stubb's, which is subject to local noise ordinances, but downtown Austin was just getting going when the Galactic crowd spilled into the streets.

With its musicianship, showmanship and unpredictable performances, Galactic is emerging as one of the hottest live acts on the scene. The band's current tour runs through the end of November, and supporting acts Mofro, North Mississippi AllStars and Kid Koala will be joining the action along the way. Galactic will close out the year with three shows in California, including its third consecutive New Year's Eve in San Francisco.

Words: Travis Langdon
Photos: Marcy Molitor
JamBase | Austin, Texas
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 11/8/02]

Take full advantage of all JamBase has to offer by signing up for an account!

You'll receive

show alerts

when your favorite artists announce shows, be eligible to enter contests for

free tickets

, gain the ability to

share your personalized live music calendar

and much more. Join JamBase!