Concert Review: Galactic at the Paradise

By Benson Knickerbocker

Go to the Vermont Review's Interview with Galactic Keyboardist Rich Vogel

The Paradise Theater in Boston was provided with a pre New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival sneak preview with the vibe masters Galactic. With smoke machines blaring, bodies sweating and the floor pulsating in a continuos funkified dance, Galactic lived up to their reputation of providing a relentless and unsubmissive version of New Orleans/1970s funk. Culling from their two albums, 1996’s Coolin’ Off and 1998’s Crazyhorse Mongoose, plus an assortment of cover tunes by the Meters, Lee Dorsey and Lou Donaldson, Galactic provided their blend of Muscle Shoals R&B/ Herbie Hancock funk and New Orleans syncopated rhythms to the packed crowd at the Paradise.

New Orleans’ native Stanton Moore repeatedly amazes the crowd with his mastery of the second line polyrhythmic drumming that defines the New Orleans sound. Just like his Crescent City contemporaries of Zigaboo Modeliste and Russell Batiste, Stanton Moore has become on of the premier drummers of Nawlin’s as well the nation. For more of his crazy work, check out his solo work on All Kooked Out (Fog City). Rich Vogel, who was a feature interview in the Vermont Review a few months back, continually hones his skills on his triumvirate of instrumentation consisting of the Moog, Wurlitzer and Hammond B-3. It is his Moog work that really stands out as his ably to sustain and manipulate the funkiest of 1970s effects. Similarly, guitarist Jeff Raines is a chameleon of sounds who is seems to be constantly refining and defining his guitar technique. Bassist Robert Mercurio is the most reliable of the band for one can set a watch to his constant bass lines which will make even the most strong willed non-believer submit to the funk. In addition to versions of "Go Go", "Stax Jam", "Church" and "Hamp’s Hump", one of the evening’s highlights was the tune "Crazyhorse Mongoose". In addition to its highly danceable re-occurring musical theme, the tune also featured a lengthy guitar/drum duel between Stanton Moore and the mystery saxophonist. Galactic’s regular saxophonist, Ben Ellman, was conspicuously absent from the fold, but his replacement filled in masterfully and even added to the band’s sound with his electric saxophone and dizzying sound effects.

Behind this entire instrumental funk is singer Theryl "Houseman" deClouet who provides lyrical escapes from the incessant jamming of the band members. Besides Stanton Moore, Houseman is the other New Orleans’ native in the band who spent his pre-Galactic years doing the Crescent City music scene. What Galactic has done for both Houseman and the entire New Orleans music environs has been the escape of New Orleans beyond the city’s protective bubble. Over the years, only a few musicians such as the Meters, Neville Brothers and Dr. John, have been able to break that same shell. A rather ironic thought considering the vast amounts of incredible music that proliferates the scene.

During his stints, the mythically garbed Houseman’s seems to have a repetitive favorite phrase? "This is to all the ladies in the house". In the tradition of Maceo Parker and Walter "Wolfman" Washington, Theryl deClouet likes to give a well-deserved attention to the ladies in the audience with his rap that is a Nawlin’s version of South Park’s Chef. On this evening, Houseman provided some Galactic originals such as the crowd pleaser "Start From Scratch", "Love On The Run" and "There is Something Wrong With This Picture".

The evening featured two guest musicians: Radioactive and the leader guitarist for the jazz-groove band Lettuce. Boston’s own Radioactive recreates the sounds of drum machines, synthesizer, mixing boards and Casio keyboards with one microphone and his vocals. Got the crowd going with his one-man funk/hip-hop show and then was joined by Galactic for some genuine hip hopping New Orleans style. Radio Active then proceeded to distribute Easter treats to the sweating crowd. By the time 1:30 came around, there wasn’t a dry body in the place and the Galactic had once again persevered as the victors in the battle over motionless spectating. For all of the New Orleans travelers, they are psyched for they are going to get a 24 onslaught of what occurred at the Paradise.