GALACTIC @ Paradise Rock Club in Boston, MA
Show review supporting the launch of their tour for the new album Ya-Ka-May – Available 02/09/10
Contributing Writer : Jason Turgeon
Contributing Photographer/Video Wiz : Joseph McGonegal
Galactic’s set at the Paradise in Boston on Wednesday almost ended in a personal disaster for this cub-scout reporter. I arrived late to find a handful of the true faithful still braving the 20 degree weather and grovelling for tickets half way through the first set. At the box office–which at the ‘dise is presented by the always-classy sheet of filthy bulletproof glass and metal grille for speaking combo popularized by Bronx convenience stations–I was stunned to learn that my name wasn’t on the press list. I was momentarily livid, having left the warm embrace of my couch and ridden 4 miles through the salt-covered streets on my bicycle for this show, but the jaded old gal behind the glass was unimpressed. My name wasn’t on the list and she had no idea where the tour manager was, and that was that.
By the time I’d finished my little chat with customer relations and done some looking myself for the manager, the first set was over and fans began to stream out, sweaty and smiling in that “goddamn, this show is amazing way” that I was beginning to fear I might not realize for myself that evening. I was skulking around the merch table with a grimace on my face pondering my next moves. Then, improbably, drummer Stanton Moore and bassist Robert “Bobby Mac” Mercurio showed up for an autograph session within arms’ reach of me. Feeling completely unprofessional, I sheepishly approached, introduced myself to the two of them, and explained my situation.
At this point in the story, it’s worth noting a couple of things. First, along the way I’d acquired a PBR tallboy. Maybe carrying a half-empty can of beer with you when you ask a bandmember to please, Please! let you into his sold-out show carries journalistic weight, but I somehow doubt it. Second, these guys were at a merch table, trying to make a few extra dollars on CD and T-shirt sales. They had a job to do, and I clearly wasn’t part of it. So I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if they’d politely brushed me off and gone back to signing copies of their new album, Ya-Ka-May (which looks amazing on the large-format of a vinyl album, incidentally).
Instead, without even a moment’s discussion, Bobby took off like a flash to track down his tour manager for me so they could get things sorted out. A solid 10 minutes later, he triumphantly returned, handed me over to the manager, and went back to his post to sign a couple more autographs before resuming the stage. While he was gone, I learned from Stanton that this, the opening night of their tour, was the first time any of the band had actually seen copies of their new album. That’s the kind of hard-working, egoless, friendly, decidedly un-rock-star guys that make up Galactic, so maybe it’s no surprise that the music they make gives you the warm fuzzies so much.
Finally inside, the “all-in-this-together” vibe continued as I quickly ran into 3 separate groups of friends that I hadn’t known would be at the show. Having missed the first set, it took me a few minutes to catch up to the euphoria of the rest of the crowd while the band rocked through a collection of songs I couldn’t place and Photo Joe and I caught up with a series of shots and videos from the back corners of the bar, safe from the dancing masses. As the set wore on, though, the energy built and by the time they reached the set-closing “From the Corner to the Block” for an epic 15 minute adventure, the whole place was absolutely pulsating.
This was their first show on a tour that will feature Cyril Neville of the Neville Brothers on percussion and occasional vocals and Trombone Shorty of the Rebirth Brass Band on his signature instrument. Since the album they’re supporting features a different New Orleans artist on every track, it makes sense that they would have guests. But these are clearly more than guests, just as the hip-hop artists they brought along to support their last tour were also more than guests. For Galactic, friendship and community are very obviously the bedrock of their whole existence. A case-in-point was their inclusion of saxophonist Ben Ellman’s nephew Luke. The Younger Ellman, quite possibly no more than 18 or 19 years old, is already an amazing saxophone player himself and the whole band is obviously behind him. He got about 15 minutes of front-row time towards the end of the set and held his own in an uncle-vs-nephew blowout that left the room gasping for air. Keep your eye on this kid, and if you see the name Luke Ellman in a band lineup make sure you don’t miss him before the rest of the world finds out.
Their friendship and community approach provides some new kick to the show, too. While Cyril’s voice is strong, he’s no Theyrl DeClouet, and some of the vocal songs lacked the punch of previous tours. But Trombone Shorty more than made up for it, not only with his prowess on the bone but also with the surprising revelation that he’s a pretty talented MC in his own right. Throughout the set, I found myself wondering why the band doesn’t have a full-time bone in their lineup, he fit in so well. Even more surprising, his rapping on “From the Corner” was spot on.
By the middle of the “From the Corner” things had reached a fever pitch. When Trombone Shorty started commanding the crowd to throw their hands up the reaction was unanimous–he had our undivided attention and every hand was up and waving wildly. He maintained this control through one of the most amazing displays of crowd management I’ve ever seen at a show, telling us all to “get down real low” and actually succeeding. Normally, the back of the room is way to cool to throw up hands or crouch down to the ground just because some guy on stage is having a good time. Not here, not with Shorty–every single person in the joint was hugging the floor, laughing and waiting for the groove to kick back into full swing. And kick back it did, raging into life with a foot-stomping, floor-shaking good time that sent the crowd, this time with me included, back out into the crisp February air with that “godDAMN, that was a good show” look on our faces.
More video from the show can be found here : http://www.youtube.com/user/mcjournalist
Ya-Ka-May Album Review can be found here : http://therfw.com/2010/02/galactic-ya-ka-may-album-review/