Galactic with Papa Mali & Soul Rebels Brass Band
12.31.06 :: Tipitina's :: New Orleans, LA
Words by: John-Ryan Hevron :: Images by: Cara Schembri
We walked into Tip's with last year's New Year's Eve performance in mind. That show was Galactic's first time playing New Orleans post-Katrina, and both the crowd and the music were drunk with urgency. We could tell right away that this year would be different. Tip's wasn't quite as crowded, the people weren't quite as dressed up, and the overall energy was down a notch. But, even without that spark in the air, Tipitina's is Galactic's homebase, and they always put on a good show there.
Galactic :: 12.31.06 :: New Orleans
We stood in the back and listened to the end of Papa Mali's opening set. His trio was rounded out by Kevin O'Day on drums and Scott Nelson on bass. What we heard was good, but it didn't kick start our evening. Galactic drummer Stanton Moore sat in on drums and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux on vocals for "Fire Water" and "Carnival Time."
As Papa Mali finished, the crowd arrived all at once. We snaked our way to the front while we still had a chance. The stage had the feel of a band rehearsal space decorated with Mardi Gras leftovers. A metallic silver sheet, like the space blankets they hand out at marathons, hung from the back wall. Two different sized disco balls hung like giant mirrored grapes on either end of the stage and a blingtastic three-foot-tall, silver mirrored "G" sat on a pedestal in the middle. As always Professor Longhair's painted portrait, dressed up with a hat and clock, looked down on the proceedings from above.
While we waited for the band to start, DJ Medi4 had the crowd sing along to Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll." The "lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time" refrain quickly turned into an enthusiastic chant of "Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say they gonna beat them Saints?" The New Orleans Saints are making a rare but deserved appearance in the playoffs this year, and the city is beyond excited.
Jeff Raines :: 12.31.06 :: New Orleans
While introducing the band, the Tipitina's MC announced, "Last year was a year of survival, but this year is our year to kick ass!" The audience on the rail crowded in as guitarist Jeff Raines, dressed in a light blue tuxedo jacket, ripped into the opening of "Fema." This would be an "on night" for him. The funk continued with "Go Go" and "Garbage Truck" and before we knew it, the Soul Rebels Brass Band was onstage, bringing the head count to 13. After a couple jams it was time for the countdown. Though it might have been a few minutes past midnight by Professor Longhair's clock, the Soul Rebels' trombone player assured us that it was 11:59. We celebrated with plastic cups of champagne as the horns played "Auld Lang Syne." The Soul Rebels then left the stage and Galactic reclaimed the show with a fiery take on the JB's "Hot Pants Road," which included some Beastie Boys "Sabotage" style soloing from bass player Rob Mercurio.
Papa Mali then voodooed his way onto the stage and impressed right away with an Allmans' "Whipping Post-esque" version of John Lee Hooker's "Bottle Up and Go." His guitar playing and singing were inspired, but his midnight-blue pimp hat with a big yellow feather stuck in the side was ridiculous. He followed up with a solid take on Aaron Neville's funk classic, "Hercules." After "the Moil," Galactic continued the Zep theme with an instrumental "Immigrant Song." I simultaneously pumped my fist to the music and tried to get the bartender's attention for a last plastic cup of champagne.
The band invited the Soul Rebels back to the stage and closed the set out with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band's "Blackbird Special." Afterwards, the Soul Rebels stayed to play a full set of their own. We needed a break but the Soul Rebels were just too good to skip. Frankly, they gave Galactic a run for their money as party band of the evening. In the tradition of New Orleans brass bands, they played a medley of familiar crowd pleasers including "I Want You Back" by the Jackson 5, "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley, and "Give it Up" by James Brown. They showed rare restraint by closing their set with a jubilant take on Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" rather than another "Who dat?" chant.
Papa Mali & Chief Monk Boudreaux :: 12.31.06 :: New Orleans
For Galactic's second set, we relocated to the balcony. As usual, the floor was slick from spilled drinks and the condensation from a couple hundred moving bodies. Galactic started up with a version of "Black Eyed Pea" that included a terrific solo by Stanton Moore. They segued into even more Zeppelin with new regular "Trampled Under Foot." What followed was darker and more intense than the first set and eventually found Annie Clemons on bass for a lively take on the Meter's "Little Ole Money Maker."
Papa Mali then returned for Al Green's "I'm a Ram." He sang well, but it's hard to beat versions performed by their former singer at earlier Tip's shows. They followed with a brooding "Walk on Guilded Splinters" that was one of the highlights of the night. The band was lit with a muddy mix of yellow and blue, the murky light reflected in the silver backdrop providing an underwater effect. Papa Mali and Chief Monk Boudreaux handled vocals, channeling everything spooky and preaching to the crowd while Anders Osborne banged away on a cowbell in the back.
Galactic closed things out with a high energy "Shibuya" that cemented Jeff's status as MVP of the night. After a short encore break, the band played two more instrumentals. The first was Robert Walter's "Poison Pussy" (or "Poison Pushy" as it says on the liner notes of his last album), which they played as a classic Meters-style four-piece lineup. Saxophonist Ben Ellman rejoined them for the final song, "Bongo the Dog."
Soul Rebels Brass Band :: 12.31.06 :: New Orleans
I wasn't the only one who felt that the show ended a little early. Last year's three-set marathon had raised our expectations high. Though I suspect that the early ending had something to do with the band wanting to get in a little more family time before heading off to Jam Cruise the next day, it might have been the energy of the evening as well. As I wrote earlier, the vibe in the room lacked some of the urgency of last year's Katrina catharsis show. But maybe that's not such a bad thing. It could be a sign that New Orleans is finally settling down and heading back to normalcy.
Galactic :: 12.31.06 :: Tipitina's :: New Orleans, LA
Set I: Fema, Go Go, Garbage Truck, Soul Rebels tune (Soul Rebels), Auld Lang Syne (Soul Rebels), Hot Pants, Bottle up & go (Papa Mali), Hercules (Papa Mali), Moil, Immigrant Song, Blackbird Special (Soul Rebels)
Soul Rebels Set: I Want You Back, Raise the Roof, Crazy, Give It Up, Who Dat?, When the Saints Go Marching In > Blister in the Sun > When the Saint Go Marching In, Crazy In Love
SET II: Black eyed Pea > Trampled under foot, Sunday Araq, Black Talk, Lil ole' Money Maker (Annie Clemens, Bass), Tiger Roll > Bounce Baby > Space Headz, I'm A Ram (Papa Mali), Walk on Guilded Splinters (Papa Mali, Monk Boudroux, Anders Osbourne), Shibuya
E: Poison Pussy, Bongo the Dog
JamBase | Worldwide
Go See Live Music!