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Galactic is out of this world

New Orleans jam band brings taste of the Big Easy to Jefferson Theater

Pushing your way through the crowd, you pass people of every sort imaginable, assorted faces of all shapes, colors and temperaments. There’s dancing, drinking, shouting — and then, through the humming ambience, you hear music, roaring trombones, swinging drums and a multitude of voices joined together in song. It fills the air and gives the place an unmistakable aura, but you aren’t on Bourbon street. You aren’t on Basin street, Canal street or Frenchman street either. Not even close. You’re in Charlottesville, Va. at the Jefferson Theater last Tuesday, and at center stage is an impeccable group of musicians: New Orleans’ own Galactic.

In the span of a few albums, the quintet has transformed
themselves from a nondescript, run-of-the-mill jam band to bona fide musical anthropologists of New Orleans, melding together the myriad of indigenous styles of its hometown with its own brand of funk in a kind of — dare I say it? — musical gumbo.

In concert, it’s no different. Horns blazing, the group powered through brass-band influenced instrumentals from their last release, 2012’s Carnivale Electricos, with the help of vocalists Corey Henry, of New Orleans’ Rebirth Brass Band, and Corey Glover, of classic New York group Living Colour.

Glover, decked out in track pants and a baseball cap, got the crowd energized and chanting with the rocking track “Hey Na Na.” Henry, with a shout of “Let’s do this Charlottesville style!” rapped over the thumping beats of New Orleans club track “From the Corner to the Block.” Finally, the energy culminated in an incredible cover of Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality,” which was met with an rapturous applause by all.

Easily the highlight of the night was the drumming of Stanton Moore, founding member and the key to their signature sound. Whether out of reverence or fear, the rest of the band cleared the stage for his 10-minute solo, leaving the bespectacled drummer beaming in the spotlight.

Moore started out gently, working the heads of his drums with a pair of brushes into an intricate jazz rhythm. A tambourine replaced the brushes and Stanton knocked out a syncopated groove suggestive of Mardi Gras Indian drumming. From the exotic percussion of Congo Square dances to the loose snare rolls of Second Line parades, to the electronically layered Bounce beats, his rhythms evoked 100 years of New Orleans musical history.

But after a night of incessant dancing, tight instrumentals and the soaring falsetto of vocalist Glover, the music came to an end. The aura faded and the audience began to leave the Jefferson, craving more, but satisfied with the journey they had made through New Orleans rhythms.

But it’s not just Galactic’s creative rhythms, crazy melodies or talented vocals that set them apart. If you devote even a small amount of attention to their music, you’ll unveil a complex web of influences, all tied together by that single city.

For those of us at the concert last Tuesday night, the Jefferson Theater was transformed into our own little slice of New Orleans.


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