Galactic is one of the most popular bands in the contemporary NOLA funk movement. This has been perpetuated in part by their influential management team, Superfly Productions, the force behind the Bonnaroo Music Festival. Galactic has also been touring incessantly for the past 15 years and their music speaks for itself. The release of their last album has moved the band in a direction with more of an urban appeal, but this show saw the band returning to their NOLA roots.
One great thing about instrumental funk, whether it be an organ trio like Soulive or a full ensemble, are re-worked covers of popular tunes. The first six notes of Jimi Hendrix's "Manic Depression" were instantly recognizable before they went into a loud trombone solo. During a heated jam, saxophonist Ben Ellman took out his electric harmonica, which runs a cable into an effects pedal. The distortion he used had it sounding like an electric guitar at times. The two chord jam segued into one chord, leaving a lot of room for melody and improvisation (think the Allmans' "Mountain Jam").
Other highlights from the night include New Orleans native Stanton Moore's solo on "Blackbird Special," a brass band favorite. Bassist Robert Mercurio also took a solo during "Crazyhorse Mongoose" with heavy distortion making the bass sound crunchy, like a metal guitar. Mercurio had his trusty '60s vintage Fender Precision Bass that he plays at every gig. The bass is almost identical to the Motown legend James Jamerson's Funk Machine, and Mercurio pays homage to his soulful forefathers with his timeless style. At one point, a drunken kid dressed in the height of Williamsburg fashion, jumped onstage and started trying to talk to the band, and it took a while before he was finally escorted off. Although he did his best to ruin the vibe, nothing could stop Galactic as they continued to grind away, barely phased.
Williamsburg is both extremely intriguing and repulsive. The streets have some of the most beautiful graffiti and art in all of New York, and it is a lively, safe community. Yet signs of excess and aggressive gentrification are everywhere. The vibe that Brooklyn Bowl brings to the neighborhood is a new and different energy that's humble, exciting, and nostalgic for the golden ages of music while working to create a new one.