March is shaping up to be a pretty funky month for me, as I have already seen two great funk groups live and plan on attending a few more similar shows. I have been anticipating the Feb. release of a new Galactic album for some time now, despite having no intention of buying the record. Galactic’s often instrumental blend of funk and New Orleans style jazz is a must see live, and even their own studio recordings hardly do it justice.
I was excited to hear that they were playing Park West in Chicago, as I had not yet been. Though the venue consistently offers alternative/indie rock acts among a wide array of others, seeing a show there had eluded me for years (My first unsuccessful run-in with the place was in fact for a sold out 2007 or 2008 Galactic show featuring none other than J-5 member and Chicago’s own Chali 2na. Obviously, not getting to that show remains one of my biggest regrets in life. Later, I was out of town for a comedy show at Park West featuring JB Smoove as his character Leon Black.). Needless to say, I was excited to finally get to a show there.
Galactic’s live repertoire always promises a few things:
1. Great opening act
2. Intriguing collaborations (often with the opening act as well as others)
3. a Led Zeppelin cover
This show was no different. Galactic brought with them from New Orleans the Soul Rebels, an amazing brass band complete with multiple trombones and trumpets, a saxophone, a sousaphone, and Mardi Gras style drumming (one person playing snare drum, one person playing bass drum and cymbals). Their original tunes are funky and danceable, and they’ll surprise you with their range of covers. “How does that instrumentation sound playing with Metallica?” “Will they play my favorite Eurythmics song?” Youtube says “amazing” and “yes!”
Last time I saw Galactic, they were joined mid-set for a memorable few songs by opening act Gift of Gab (of Blackalicious). Galactic performs often (both in studio and live) with rappers, as their grooves lend themselves well to hip-hop. This show though they had Corey Glover of Living Colour on standby, waiting in the wings to run onstage and belt out a few tunes. As hoped and dreamed, they played “Cult of Personality.” Need I say more?
Eventually the Soul Rebels made their way back onstage as well, and an extended jam ensued, in which sax players traded solos, trumpet players traded solos, drummers traded solos and even the tuba and bass guitar got in on a little back and forth action. Check it out below if you have 12 minutes.
As promised, the night did not end until Galactic played a signature Led Zeppelin cover. Drummer Stanton Moore can play lighting fast fills and pound away on crash cymbals, but, like Bonham, sounds best when just laying down a thick groove. They played a song that I’ve heard them play before, “Kashmir,” but this was different. Typically the band will play a pretty straight cover while the tenor sax plays the melody, but on this night they utilized Corey Glover, and he wailed.
I highly recommend checking out both Galactic and the Soul Rebels if you don’t already know them. They provide insight to the birth of jazz and the unfortunate seeming death of authentic New Orleans music. Such acts are a welcome respite.