Galactic finds new direction with hip-hop at the Fillmore - Reverb

Live review: Galactic @ the Fillmore Auditorium

Galactic introduced a hip-hop flavor to its New Orleans sound at the Fillmore Auditorium on Saturday. Photo courtesy of kpbs.org.

Galactic introduced a hip-hop flavor to its New Orleans sound at the Fillmore Auditorium on Saturday. Photo courtesy of kpbs.org.

After being students and innovators of the New Orleans sound for more than a decade, Galactic has matured from a niche jam band to a full-blown headliner able to pack one of Denver’s largest venues. Saturday night they brought the funk to the Fillmore Auditorium, accompanied by more-than-worthy opening acts Orgone and Dumpstaphunk.

As people started shuffling into the venue, L.A.-based funk outfit Orgone was already burning through a high energy set of dance music. The eight-piece band was led by the soulful lead vocals of Fanny Franklin, whose animated performance drew an inevitable comparison to Jen Durkin of Deep Banana Blackout. The band was as tight as they come, in large part to the stellar, worldly playing of percussionist Stewart Killen.

Perhaps the highlight of the night, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, was next. The band’s ability to take classic New Orleans concepts and revive them into progressive, powerful compositions was immediate and unrelenting. Nearly every song had crisp, syncopated harmonies that often explored surprisingly catchy odd-times.

Don’t get the wrong idea—they were funky. Nick Daniels and Tony Hall each showed impressive bass chops (and added James-Brown-like sound effects throughout) and Raymond Weber’s speedy drumming rarely fell out of the pocket. Not to mention the addition of the legendary Cyril Neville on percussion halfway through the set. They touched on songs including “Living in a World Gone Mad,” “Gasman,” “Put It In the Dumpster” (referring to what the crowd should do with their “negative feelings about anyone or anything”), and the Sly and the Family Stone classic “You Can Make It If You Try.”

When Galactic took the stage, the auditorium was already alive with energy. Touring in support of their 2010 release “Ya-Ka-May,” the band was joined by prodigy trombone player Corey Henry, rapper Lyrics Born and Cyrille Neville throughout the set. The result was a poppy melding of vintage funk and modern hip-hop.

With the exception of a gritty version of “Funky Bird,” much of the band’s classic jam material was left off the setlist in favor of new, MC-led anthems. Lyric’s Born took the lead on catchy tracks like “What You Need,” though his clever wordplay was overshadowed by a delivery that seemed, at times, incompatible with the core feel of the band.

Corey “Boe Money” Henry’s stage presence as a leading man was memorable. Between center stage trombone solos and raw raps repping New Orleans, it was hard to look away. His cliché but well-received directions had the crowd “getting low” at times and throwing their hands “in the mother fucking air” at others.

After two hours of head-bobbing grooves and simplified backing tracks, Galactic’s rhythm section finally got to let loose during a half-hour encore that featured an ominous bass solo by the smooth Robert Mercurio and a stand-alone solo by master drummer Stanton Moore.

While their new, hip-hop heavy sound is aimed at appealing to a new generation, Galactic continues to stay rooted in the heavy horns and unique rhythms that make New Orleans’ music so special.

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Nate Etter is a Boulder-based musician and a regular contributor to Reverb.

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