Funk and jazz band Galactic brings the sounds of New Orleans to central Indiana
On Thursday April 4th , I did something I don’t normally do, which is go to a show completely alone. But I did it with good reason, as a rarity to central Indiana graced us with the soulful sounds of New Orleans. Galactic, a staple in the jam band scene revered for their almost telepathic ability to play flawlessly, came to the Vogue on tour with the Nigel Hall Band to share with us some of their musical prowess.
I arrived to the venue around 8:30 p.m., just in time to catch the second half of the Nigel Hall Band. As I walked into the Vogue more ready then ever to experience some new music, the Nigel Hall Band, and to see Galactic in a whole new light from a writer’s perspective, I ran into a fellow writer for the scene. We spoke on life and writing, as this will be my first official Indymojo review. He talked about an experience he had not too long ago writing about the Suwannee Music Festival and gave me some tips and friendly advice, I’m never one to turn that kind of thing down. I proceeded to grab a beer and head to the stage to see what turned out to be a composite of many already well established musicians in the scene. The Nigel Hall Band was comprised of members from Lettuce and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, both excellent funk machines. Nigel was front and center on what I believe was a Rhodes leading the band in what I could only compare to a combination of Motown and Ray Charles with an added funkiness to it. I was only able to catch a couple of their songs, but the Nigel Hall Band will definitely be a new act I will be watching out for as I hit the festival grounds this summer. After they left the stage the standard mulling around during set break commenced as the bar filled up, tables were occupied and cigarettes were smoked. I was able to find a good group of homies to bullshit with and eventually getting to talk to E.D. Coomes, who plays the bass with Lettuce and Nigel Hall. He shared with me some of his story, growing up the son of an already established musician it turns out he was born to play.
As the anticipation grew, I found my way back inside and at the bar grabbing another beer as the lights began to fall and Galactic started to take the stage. They opened their one, very long, set with the energy that any other band would have saved for the encore, setting the stage for what was one of the best shows I have seen this winter. You could feel the drums in your chest as the horn section led the fully instrumental number in a wild and funky direction, then transitioning seamlessly into one of my favorites, the song “Balkan Wedding”. With what seemed like a duel between the horn section and everybody else in the band, “Balkan Wedding” had you jumping back and forth to the eastern European sounds fused with the funk of New Orleans. Next they went into “Hey Na Na”, a fairly new one for Galactic, with Dave Shaw of The Revivalists doing the lead vocals. For the crowd, this radio friendly song was well received but was not one of my favorites. I could feel the energy and definitely caught myself in a little groove, but I like my Galactic as soulful and funky as possible, the old school sounds of New Orleans without the hip hop influence that the last two Galactic albums seemed to exemplify.
I got to talking to some friends about this and it seems that, though they on their trips to New Orleans never experienced this hip hop side of the city, there does seem to be a presence, which is why Galactic chose to call it out on more recent albums. Shaw made it up to me though by following up “Hey Na Na” with “Ain’t No Love”, a very soulful, jazzy number where he took the lead on the guitar and vocals, absolutely killin’ it. They later played to our heartstrings with a cover of the famous Beatles tune, “I Am the Walrus”, which really got the crowd going. The ever presence scent of “Hippie” increased with this song as people carelessly lit up in remembrance of the iconic 60’s pop/rock band, and Galactic added a playful funk undertone to the song, really making it their own while paying tribute to a challenging song I have never seen covered. As I stood there taking notes, a friend of mine was asking me to try to describe how I document a show like this and how does one describe the feel of such a band. I let him take a look through my notes, he nodded in agreement to things I had written, while asking questions about others. I told him that solid research is always helpful in really understanding a band, especially one as dynamic and versed as Galactic. This band is different in that their city is fueled by changing music on a daily basis, and when they do a studio album they bring in many different local and regional musicians, letting them just lay it down as they see fit. They are diverse and different, so where as I may not like the hip hop side of it, it is important in understanding the rich history of a city which is embodied in their music. This was ever more evident in the following song, “Heart of Steel”, another tune lead by Shaw on vocals. While people were rowdy and excited for the cover before, as “Heart of Steel” was played you could literally feel the crowd calm down in respect of the soul Galactic was putting into this number. This is one song that was also featured with hip hop tunes on the album it debuted on; again with the diversity, this band just knows how to do it all, and how to do it right. As I continued to run into more people I knew, I continued to get encouragement for my writing (so I hope you all like it!) making the experience that much more worth it. As it came time for the encore, Galactic came out strong with the number “Does It Really Make a Difference”, and brother I can tell you it DOES make a difference.
A fellow traveler and well respected head saw me taking notes and came over to discuss some of his experiences with Galactic. He told me that, having seen Phish over 150+ times, that more then ever Galactic was there in the small towns back in the day to keep the party alive. But more then that, they would take you to the next level. I believe his exact words were, “They’ll tickle your balls and make you forget that Harry Hood encore” a hard feat for any diehard phish phan. So to the band that was always there to keep the groove goin, it does matter. For the final song, they busted out with a cover of “When The Levee Breaks”, a song that made the crowd go wild. The energy was intense, the love from brother to sister was even more so, and I was left walking away with an ear to ear grin thinking to myself, “damn that just happened”, and on a Thursday! I can only hope that we can get Galactic back to Indy in the near future, and maybe even on a Friday or Saturday where more heads can come out, and the party can go to the break of dawn, as is according to the New Orleans tradition.
Words by Chris Lucas
Photos by Aaron Lingenfelter of Wide Aperture Images