Galactic made a triumphant return to the north shore of Lake Tahoe with a bodacious set of funk at the Crown Room.
At this point in its career Galactic is as much a band as it is an ethos. The group has established itself as one of the pre-eminent ambassadors to New Orleans music to the wider world, to the point where when you think “Galactic,” flashes of purple and green streak across your eyes and a second-line rhythm pops into your hips. New York Times writer Malcolm Gladwell has been the purveyor of the “10,000 Hour Rule,” where a person will master a certain skill or activity if they put in 10,000 hours worth of practice. Forget hours, if you were to tally the score Galactic probably have put in close to 10,000 shows over the the last 20-odd years, clearly masters of the art of the funk on stage. When you walk into a show, you know you are going to get two hours of tight, joyous music that is going to leave you feeling sweaty and alive.
Galactic took the stage at the newly renovated Crown Room as relaxed and cool as the other side of the pillow. Drummer Stanton Moore picked up the sticks with his proverbial grin, looking to the crowd and then to his bandmates, before pounding out a drum solo to start the show. It was a call to arms that the rest of his bandmates answered with a bombastic “Karate” that blew smiles right onto the faces of the crowd. Saxophonist Ben Ellman and Trombonist Corey Henry carried the hook with the swagger of a marching band and the whole band fell in line behind them, guitarist Jeff Raines and keyboardist Rich Vogel popping off sweet little solos.
This was the second year in a row the New Orleans band had brought the Delta to the Sierra Nevada and the return trip was very much appreciated by the crowd. The expanded Crown Room meant more room for the crowd of more than 700 to cut a rug and people took full advantage, merrily dipping and diving in, out and around each other to the insatiable rhythms. “Hey Na Na” had people pumping their fists, a sultry “Dolla Diva” had them poppin’ and lockin’ and “Higher and Higher” was an all out soul scream.
One thing that has always defined Galactic and plays into their New Orleans heritage is their willingness to let other artists in on the party. They’ve played with DJs, hip-hop artists and a bevy of singers, including Mavis Staples, JJ Grey and Macy Gray. Last night, singer Erica Falls was the special guest, and oh my God, did she ever bring it. There was a power and confidence in her voice that seemed to have grown since her last time in Tahoe with the band, a great thing to have when you are fronting a crack instrumental band. Her voice soared over the throbbing mass of fans on “Right On” like a disco siren, the energy of the song surging like G-forces, with “Does It Really Make A Difference,” giving her the chance to but some slowed down soul into the room. Galactic loves to mix it up but Falls is someone that could certainly fill that frontwoman role as a permanent member.
The feeling at the end of the show felt familiar walking out to the cars. Sweaty, tired, smiling and buzzed on two hours of in-your-face funk. It was the feeling of witnessing masters at work. It was the feeling of Galactic.
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