The beer flowed and spilled in equally epic proportions as the scene-seeking denizens of New Orleans packed Tipitina's to hear Galactic. This three night stand at Tip's was recorded for an upcoming live album.

The Lil' Rascals Brass Band opened the show, playing in true brass band tradition down in the crowd. The ever-growing crowd seemed to have little problem following the Lil' Rascals exhortations to "get your head right." This gave Tipitina's the air of a very, very good cocktail party in which lapses in conversation were filled by second line drumming and blaring dueling brass.

The Lil' Rascals were joined for part of their set by former member Ben Ellman, who coincidentally ended up playing for most of Galactic's two sets.

Galactic started their 1st set well after midnight and the sound was crisp and clear (here's to the sound guys). The band of course took advantage of this and began to lay the groundwork for the jams that would later blast the roof off of Tip's. Tunes that stood out the most in the 1st set included a cover of the Dakartis' "Dakarti Walk," and an absolutely sick set-closing jam featuring the Lil' Rascals Brass Band pushing the funk to dangerous levels (it will be a grave injustice if this does not make the album). It was also nice to hear an old song, "There's Something Wrong With This Picture" performed with focus, with every single solo, fill, backbeat, and vocal perfectly placed.

After the roadies made sure the cymbals were aligned at the appropriate angles, the wires to the Moog were aligned in the proper green, purple, yellow pattern, Jeff Raines' guitar foot effects were arranged in the shape of a poorly combed afro, and each and every candle was lit and projecting the proper aura, Galactic took the stage for the 2nd set.

Following the precedent they had just set for having the longest setbreak in history, Galactic commenced a monster 2nd set that lasted over two hours. The first song twisted and turned and peaked and crested and incited a brawl between two women in the front of the crowd. This no-holds-barred brawl must have taken its inspiration from the raucous zig-zagging grooves being produced by the band, as the two women careened back and forth, bouncing off of surprised patrons and successfully drawing some of the more excitable men in the crowd into the fisticuffs. It took several minutes for the Tip's staff to quell the uprising and throw the combatants out into the night, and during all of this the band played on.

The next notable occurrence in the 2nd set was the reemergence of Theryl "the Houseman" DeClouet, Galactic's soulful singer. While there are those who are critical of the direction the Houseman leads the band during his appearances (i.e. the anti-vocals and anti-showmanship crowd), I don't see how anyone could disparage the Houseman Friday night. He was ON. Nattily attired, as per usual, in only the sharpest of suits, the Houseman was a swaggering soul machine who was just nailing his vocals. His rich, gravelly voice was in top condition and I was truly moved by the Houseman's performance for the first time since 1998, when I saw him glide onto the stage of the Bayou in Washington D.C. wearing a sequined jacket with a blazing sun on the back. That night he slew the crowd with his gruff crooning, and his Friday night performance was similarly impressive.

The post-Houseman section of the 2nd set was filled with spacey, free-flowing groove jams featuring Stanton Moore's assault on his drum kit, Rich Vogel's rich organ, and Rob Mercurio's thick steady bass lines. This is the Galactic that I like best, the Galactic that is often overshadowed these days by their newer material (fast and crazy Delta blues licks over an intense speedy rhythm).

The encore brought some of the above mentioned wild, rocking guitar driven madness, and prompted an unkempt and disheveled fellow riding the rail in front of Jeff Raines to give Jeff the Ozzy salute, pumping his v-shaped fist into the air repeatedly and banging his head. At least in this fellow's head, Jeff was summoning the spirit of Randy Rhodes.

To be honest, this dude was on to something, because the last song of the encore was Black Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf" and it did indeed rock. So I would like to conclude this review by giving props to drunken clairvoyant headbanger. I would also like to note that if the recording gurus did their job properly, the live album that is being compiled from this three night stand at Tip's should be a heck of a listen.

Billy Thinnes
JamBase New Orleans Correspondent
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 12/4/00]

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