As I sit here to write about the musical silliness I boogied to last night, much of the northeast is mired in a blackout (amazingly we've got the juice flowing here in Jersey City). Now the city is swimming in darkness, but last night the crowd at B.B. King was completely tapped into the power grid of Galactic, Garaj Mahal, Bonerama and the Syncopated Taint Septet. It's taken me a full day for my brain to stop pulsing from the fun and games, so here's a bit of a rundown.

Got there just in time to catch the last two tunes from Skerik Seattle all-starish ensemble the Syncopated Taint Septet. The new album is a wonderful odyssey into the world of big band jazz (see review), but live the elephantine horn section took it up a notch or two. Even the short taste was enough to impress as they ended the set with "Too Many Toys" weaving horns and keyboards in and out of themes and lengthy jams.

The bombardment was part of a full on assault for the evening where the music pummeled us with the sheer power of horns and then built us back up with some top-notch, laid back, thoughtful grooves. Bonerama kept the attack at full tilt as the four-trombones generated enough electricity to keep the seizure-inducing lights of Times Square outside blinking all night. This was my first taste of Bonerama and again I was taken in immediately through some sick covers of the Meters, Hendrix and a kick ass rendition of Frankenstein. Somehow the group takes a notion that is nothing but gimmicky and builds itself into a can't-resist groove machine. And it's tough to resist dropping the trombone puns.

By Tony Stack
Next up was Garaj Mahal -- a band that is very hit or miss for me. So often it seems that they are trying too hard and get too mired in tuning their obvious talents into self-aware, cliched jamband posturing. Wednesday night, however, with barely enough time to get comfortable on stage, they showed just what that mad assemblance of chops can do. The ultra-short set was just so relaxed and laid back and exemplified what the whole evening was about. The crowd was a bit smaller than I expected, likely attributed to the high ticket price and the late-night jamfest the previous evening at the Bowery Ballrom. It was a charity event, though, and the crowd seemed amped up for the challenge, pulling electricity of the "grid" of musicians on the stage and buzzing with energy to fill the room properly. Garaj fed the beast and was paid in return with Fareed Haque and Alan Hertz locking horns with the proverbial beast and shooting sparks from their well-trained instruments into the audience. What couldn't have been four songs later, the set was done and the stage was prepped for the main event.

Galactic's setlist.

Set I: Go Go, The Moil, Moog Marmalade*, Truth Is Out*, Never Called You Crazy*, Saturday Night Special*, Blackbird Special+, Doublewide# > Black Eyed Pea#, Tiger Roll > Space Headz March

Set II: All Behind You Now, Bittersweet, Uptown Odyssey, Metermaid > Chicken Pox, Hoss, Baker's Dozen#%, Bongo Joe, Villified, Little Miss Lover

E: Hangnail

* w/ Mike Dillon on percussion
+ with like 10 horn players on stage (Bonerama and Taint members galore!)
# w/ Skerik on saxophone
% w/ Cheme on saxophone

By George Weiss
That laid back attitude segued right into Galactic's set as they got down and dirty immediately with the swampy funk of "Go Go." The G-Men are favorites of mine, but for reasons I'm not quite sure I can explain, I seem to only see them once a year if that. Luckily, the shows I see are in NYC or NOLA which means that they are usually laying it down for my listening pleasure. One of the things that always strikes me with such gaps between Galactic shows is how much their sound evolves on a yearly basis. From a Meters sound-alike to a more progressive sound to a bluesier slant back to smart grooves inflected with electronic beats and so on... Each phase seems to be punctuated by one of the band members taking control of the musical direction: Stanton's impossible beats, a raunchy North Missippinflueced slide guitar, Ben vs. Skerik saxophonics, Vogel's Moogels, etc, etc. Each turn of the dial seems to build upon the previous product revealing a more interesting and dynamic sound. Last night the band was locked into a relaxed supergroove that signaled the return of Rob Mercurio on some of the tastiest funk bass playing since George started mattering. My Galactic review in a nutshell is, damn boy! that is some funky shit.

To get a little more specific, the first set was a marathon of delights as the band strung together a setlist that dotted some brand spanking new songs (so new that taping was not allowed at the show, much to the chagrin to the gaggle with their suitcases in tow) in a creamy swirl of the tried and true material like chocolate chips in chocolate ice cream. But even the older material tasted like it had been dipped in Magic Shell; a new feel that many were attributing the arrangement and production talents of Dan The Automator. The first three tunes were a perfect set-up for the night, with "Moog Marmalade" capping it off with a hazy squonk.

By George Weiss
While the only disappointment of the evening was couched in the expectations of heaps of guests that might drop by considering who was in town, we still got more than our fill of sit ins. The unnatural surge to the shows power supply threatening us all with a blackout came during a disgusting glut of horns on "Blackbird Special" which worked surprisingly well considering there were roughly 20 lungs working in concert. Ellman was the conductor here, deftly directing solos and jams to perfection. Certainly the set had to end with that madness, but Skerik stuck around and the memorable moments continued with a scintillating "Doublewide > Black Eyed Pea." This band seems to take on a Popeye-after-eating-his-spinach turn whenever Skerik joins them and this doublet was more of the same. The jam out of the former and into the latter was spectacularly played. Certainly the set had to end with that madness, but Galactic had the turbines turning and it would take a couple more tunes to get them to shut down for just a bit.

Second set started off and finished with the Houseman who has retired his more rainbow-influenced couture for some comfy summer wear. I also recall the return of Skerik as well as now-NYC-regular Cheme for a saxophone colossus on "Baker's Dozen." Somewhere in that sandwich this reviewer/dance machine/funkluva got shitfaced and had an overly entertaining time of it. As such, there ain't much more that I can say except get the tapes... d'oh!

Ned-O-Matic 4 stars (out of 5)

Aaron Stein
JamBase | Jersey
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[Published on: 9/4/03]

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