New Orleans, Louisiana
February 18, 2007
On any given night Galactic has two sets, probably 75 minutes apiece to dazzle the audience. Known for their loud, brassy, in-your-face funk party, the band must bring the heat, the funk, during those two sets. During their performances the streets of New Orleans are transplanted to whatever city they’re playing in, be it Omaha or Eugene. They manage to do this every show, period.
But Galactic’s annual Lundi Gras show during the peak of New Orleans’ Carnival season is a completely different story. They’ve got six hours to do what they damn well please in a venue they’ve played too many times to count; hell, they could probably paint you a picture that captures the smell of Tipitina’s.
The difference between this night and any other given performance is the degree of familiarity the band has with the atmosphere. They know their hometown, the venue, the audience, and the attitude permeating all of them. A party’s been in full swing for several days now and the spirit of Mardi Gras is not something they are personally responsible for conjuring. During Lundi Gras the funk is floating through the air, seeping out of the pours of every drunkard, and congealing to the floor.
Thus, with audience and band rolled into one giant celebration, Galactic has the pressures of being entertainers completely removed. They don’t have to be concerned with playing “Blue Pepper” or worry about set break lasting too long. It’s a no strings attached evening, and it definitely comes off in their performance.
Truth be told, the audience is happily entertaining their own damn selves and would probably be content just hanging out in the Sav-A-Center parking lot across the street. (Never had I seen a Galactic show have such a party-hardy lot scene; it was an essential part of the Lundi Gras experience.)
Once a barrage of local talent is thrown into the night’s festivities, you’ve cranked the party to eleven. Unlike stops in other cities, where the opening act might play a song or two with Galactic, New Orleans shows guarantee a revolving door of performers throughout the night. Rockers, rappers, washboard players, saxophonists, and legends not only grace the stage of Tipitina’s, they mingle with the audience. Within an hour Ivan Neville not only covered Curtis Mayfield’s “Hell Below,” but also saved my friend from busting her ass during setbreak!
As for the show itself, it was a marathon. Jeff Raines’ furious guitar work made the first set the ballsiest of the three, lasting about two hours, and chop full of special guests. The one-two-three punch of “FEMA,” “Go-Go” and “Clockstopper” delivered an intensity most bands strive to achieve by the end of the night.
The second set had a mellow vibe with plenty of deep, rich interaction between Rob Mercurio and Stanton Moore.
But it was the final song of the night, “Quiet Please” that displayed Galactic’s versatility. Ben Ellman turned off his fuzz pedals and wah-wahs, allowing him and Rich Vogel to lay down the smoothest jazz they’ve played. For one brief moment Galactic was the most welcomed lounge act to ever grace the stage of Tipitina’s. It was the perfect choice for six thirty in the morning.
When it was all over and done with, the sun was breaking down Tchoupitoulas and the audience was spent. Had we just experienced Galactic’s best show of the year? That’s debatable. They’re just as capable of funking up Milwaukee as they are Tipitina’s.
What is for certain is that during their Lundi Gras show the lines that separate where the party starts and where it ends have been completely diminished. On this special night Galactic is the soundtrack to Mardi Gras.