“Everywhere I am, there’s a bit of Tipitina’s. Anyone from New Orleans knows exactly what I mean.”
– Allen Toussaint, famed New Orleans’ composer and piano player
Galactic isn’t necessarily Tipitina’s house band, but it’s the band that owns the house.
The five members of the syncopated rock/jazz jam band have purchased the famous Uptown New Orleans music venue, which was first opened in 1977 for the city’s most influential piano player, Professor Longhair.
Bass player Robert Mercurio said bankers were a bit dubious to have so many investors but anyone who has seen or heard Galactic in the last quarter-century is aware of its powerful unison.
“I could see if you don’t know the people very well that five different personalities could be a disaster,” Mercurio said. “But we’ve worked together for a long time and we know our flow of working together is positive and we can get stuff accomplished.”
Mercurio, guitarist Jeff Raines, drummer Stanton Moore, keyboardist Rich Vogel and sax player Ben Ellman bought the venerable music hall at the corner of Napoleon Avenue and Tchoupitoulas Street and on Nov. 30, 2018.
Galactic has been a mainstay at Tipitina’s, which was named after a Professor Longhair song. It plays there four times a year – Jazz Fest, New Year’s Eve, Halloween and this weekend’s Mardi Gras (three shows this year instead of the customary two). In 2001, it recorded a live album at the venue, “We Love ‘Em Tonight: Live at Tipitina’s,” Its 11th album, “Already Ready Already” was released Feb. 8.
With featured singer Erica Falls, Galactic will tour March 15-30 the Rocky Mountains and West Coast, including a show Sunday, March 24, at the Crystal Bay Casino at Lake Tahoe.
“Tahoe has always been a big supporter of Galactic ever since the early days,” Mercurio said. “I remember playing there in the mid-’90s and the shows just being off the hook. We’ve always had a strong connection to that area and Crystal Bay just fits the vibe of our band.”
Tahoe Onstage: How does “Already Ready Already” compare to the last Galactic album, “Into The Deep” from 2015?
Robert Mercurio: There’s a little more of a nod to modern production on the latest release. … We’re always switching it up. It’s a shorter album than normal. We had a collection of songs that we felt had a similar vibe and connected on a level that we thought worked suitably for a record. … A similarity to the last record, it has a lot of female vocalists who we collaborated with. We tour with Erica Falls. I guess we are just getting used to having a female vocalist.
Erica Falls has played with Galactic the last four time’s the band has been to Tahoe. Why not call her a permanent band member?
She has her solo career going on. We love the act of collaborating with different people and at this point in our career, we’ve done it for so long. It’s a lot to commit permanently somebody.
You and Ben Ellman produced this album at the Galactic studio, Number C. Is that near Tipitina’s?
It’s also Uptown, eight blocks away. We’ve had for 15 years where we’ve made every record and for other bands, the Revivalists, Trombone Shorty. The list is pretty long. That’s also where we rehearse and keep our merch. We keep normal studio working hours when we’re off tour.
You are so busy, why did you and your bandmates buy Tipitina’s?
It’s been a dream of ours for a while as a band. We used to jokingly say, ‘When we buy Tipatina’s …’ But it was just too good of an opportunity to pass up. We are getting older and I am assuming at some point our touring will slow down a bit. It’s kind of our second chapter as a band, in a way. We know that we all are brotherly and have been together and have worked together well and that we could also work together well in other ventures. It seemed like it was a good move for our future.
What’s the story behind Tipitina’s banana logo?
It has nothing to do with Fess (Professor Longhair) or the song. They have tried many things over the years, different foods. At one point it was a juice bar. They made smoothies in the late ‘70s. There hasn’t been a kitchen in 15 years.
Will there be changes at Tipitina’s?
“There might be changes this fall. We’re talking to outside promoters and fans. There is Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, then in summer it gets pretty slow. We are gearing up for the fall. We might bring back bands that haven’t been there in a while. Maybe a little more variety; possibly hip-hop and country. We understand that you can’t really draw from the same crowd night after night so a variety in booking is usually beneficial for a club.”
— Tim Parsons
Related story: Crystal Bay’s Crown Room is the Tipitina’s of Lake Tahoe.