Galactic | 10.19.07

galactic1007b.jpgI must come clean on something at this point. While I appreciate all branches on the musical tree, live hip hop is not my thing. I may sound like my parents here….but the MCs are always yelling at me to put my hands in the air or shout things back at them. If the crowd doesn’t respond quickly or loud enough, they get all indignant. They hold the mic too close. The beats get too repetitive. 

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photo: Lorie Bettelyoun
more photos in FLICKS

Showbox, Seattle

When I first heard Charli 2na’s song from Galactic’s new album, From the Corner to the Block, I freaked out (in a good way).  I thought that my dream had come true.  The deep baritone of Jurassic 5 and Ozomatli was going out on his own! 

Then I learned that it was a collaboration with Galactic. Their new album acts almost like a primer on quality indie hip hop. Folks like Lyrics Born, Charli 2na (Jurassic 5 & Ozomatli), Gift of Gab (Blackalicious), Mr. Lif , Lateef the Truthspeaker,  & Boots Riley (The Coup) each have a song on the album.  These New Orleans fellas have been making hippies and hipsters wiggle, skwiggle and groove for more than a decade – but they lost a little cred with some of their fans by collaborating so closely with the hip hop world.  Some people just fear change.  

For their tour, they decided to grab a couple of these guys from their other projects for limited dates. What a cool idea. I was pretty psyched to check this out. I was extra pretty psyched when I saw that my favorite MC, Charli 2na, would be playing with them in my backyard of Seattle. And at the Showbox – my favorite Seattle venue. 

Portland natives and hip hoppers, Lifesavas, opened. One of their MC’s, Vursatyl, has a song on Galactic’s album as well.  These fellas were fantastic.  

I must come clean on something at this point. While I appreciate all branches on the musical tree, live hip hop is not my thing. I may sound like my parents here….but the MCs are always yelling at me to put my hands in the air or shout things back at them. If the crowd doesn’t respond quickly or loud enough, they get all indignant. They hold the mic too close. The beats get too repetitive.  

Lifesavas work the crowd instead of berate it. MCs Vursatyl and Jumbo played the crowd like the pros they are. DJ Shines was very much a part of the action, rapping along with them occasionally. They definitely set the tone of the evening with their funk-based hip hop. When they started, there were only a few people congregating around the stage, by the time they were finished, the whole place was bouncing. People were definitely there for Galactic, but it was obvious that a lot of people knew who these guys are….and they will check them out again.

When Galactic got started, the show was packed. They kicked things off with an instrumental version of "I Got It" which features Lyrics Born on the album. They played a couple more instrumentals – getting warmed up and warming up the crowd. While all of the musicians were excellent – initially it seemed as if the sax player (Ben Ellman) was the musical anchor. He was certainly the most expressive. However, as the show continued, it became evident that the drummer (Stanton Moore) held it all down. 

Boots Riley appeared and did a few songs. The crowd dug it….then there was a few instrumentals….these musicians having fun on stage and reading the crowd. Again, I have to come clean.

Finally, Charli 2na took the stage with his brother. With his big smile, positive vibes, and height – he reminded me very much of Michael Franti (Spearhead). The crowd went crazy as he kicked into "Golden," a great Jurassic 5 tune. They got "Think Back" out of the way quickly (Charli’s song from the Galactic album) and then he did a few songs I didn’t know – sounding great on every one. He mentioned that he has a solo album coming out soon, which made me very excited.

Then Charli took a break and the band showed off some instrumental chops. All of the band members took a solo. While I am typically not a fan of the "jam band" scene anymore, there is something magical about it live. I kept thinking, "How much is this show the same or different than every other show they do?" After all, with the different guests at their shows, things have to be organic and fluid. 

Boots came back for his tune, "Hustle Up," which is more hard rock than funk or hip-hop. On the album I was not so crazy about it, but live….wow. The energy that came out of this guy and the band was palpable. I could feel the crackle in the air; or maybe it was my spine as I banged my head a little too enthusiastically. 

When Charli came back for another J5 song, "Freedom," he was joined by Vursatyl and Boots – and the crowd continued on its high. It definitely seemed that I was not alone in my love for Charli 2na and Jurassic. 

They ended with an interesting version of Led Zepplin’s "Immigrant Song" with everyone on stage.  At this point, the whole place was going crazy, arms waving, bodies bouncing and drummer Stanton Moore slamming his sticks on the skins. 

Some fans of Galactic were a little thrown by the hipity hopness of everything, but there is no denying that Galactic know how to throw a party.  There are always going to be the music geeks who will examine every micro-musical nuance of a show – and those that cry "foul" when a band experiments with their image. Boots said it best with his James Brown reference…you may not know what to expect with Galactic, "whatever it is, it’s got to be funky." | Tony Van Zeyl

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