Lettin’ it ride in the Big Easy: Jazzfest 2010 recap, Part IV: Up all night

Part three in our five-part series, where Greg Schwartz literally pulls a triple shift, finishing the night shortly before the sun came up. Don’t let the number of entires fool you. One of these sets was almost three hours long.

Rebirth Brass Band, Congo Square Stage
A local institution since 1983, the Rebirth Brass Band has become one of the bands that personifies what New Orleans music is all about. Mixing heavy funk with old school second line jazz, the band entertained a huge crowd on another overcast but thankfully dry afternoon. A funky take on “It’s All Over Now” saw the big horn section used to great effect. Later, the band jammed on TLC’s “Waterfalls” for another highlight that had much of the throng dancing. Others sampled the great food and many craft selections that lined the area, including some stunning artwork such as stained wood paintings that retailed for $3,000. The overall crowd was much larger than the previous two days, due to it being Saturday and with Pearl Jam headlining. But a laid back vibe still permeated the air.

Band of Horses, Gentilly Stage
These rising indie rockers from Seattle have an intriguing sound that mixes orchestral pop influences with rock ‘n’ roll flavors that recall groups such as My Morning Jacket, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, the Shins and Pearl Jam’s more melodic side. The band’s new LP Infinite Arms leans to the atmospheric side, but they can rock out too, and they did for much of the set with vocalist/guitarist Ben Bridwell delivering an energetic performance. The laid back sound of “Factory” sounded nice, but it’s songs like “Laredo” that show the band at its most accessible, with an infectious melodic rock that makes it easy to see why Pearl Jam tapped the band to open their current American tour. I would have liked to stay for the whole set, but I had to get over to the main stage for one of the festival’s main events.

Galactic, Acura Stage
If there’s one band that personifies the modern funk rock sound of New Orleans, it has to be Galactic. Heavily rooted in the classic funk of the Meters and the Neville Brothers, the band mixes in a forward-looking acid jazz sound as well as classic rock and hip-hop flavors that have made them one of the planet’s most dependable party bands for over a decade now. But while the band can always be counted on to get the good times rolling, they also throw in an occasional socially conscious vibe that has also become a New Orleans trademark. The band distributed a little pamphlet called “Galactic’s Guide to the Planet of New Orleans – a guide to New Orleans music, food & fun,” filled with great recommendations from each band member. “If you happen to catch any of our shows, you will be seeing the band in our element: the place of Galactic’s formation, in our hometown city during a special occasion,” read the pamphlet. So an extra air of anticipation accompanied the band wherever they went.

Read the rest after the jump...

Galactic: Ya-Ka-May

RIYL: Greyboy All Stars, The Meters, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band

As an instrumental band known for kicking down big jams in the live setting, Galactic is part of a jam band genre not particularly known for creating classic albums. But the New Orleans funk rockers used to have a singer (the Houseman) and have enjoyed collaborating with vocalists when they can. They’ve taken the opportunity here to bring in a bunch of local friends to create a real album instead of just a collection of grooves. The liner notes deem it as “post-flood musical reality from a 291-year-old-city that’s had a near-death experience.” It’s an apt characterization for what will surely be one of the most unique albums of 2010.

The album kicks off with a fellow who sounds sort of like Professor Farnsworth from “Futurama” talking over a groove about some of the creative science behind the band’s festive formula. And then it’s on like Donkey Kong, with Galactic and friends throwing down one fresh cut after another to create a genuine party album. The Rebirth Brass Band joins in for “Boe Money” and “You Don’t Know,” bringing the extra horns that signify a truly authentic New Orleans style fiesta. The latter song also features Glenn David Andrews singing the blues on a sizzling cut with funky wah-wah, sharp horn lines and snazzy percussion from drummer Stanton Moore, long the driving force behind the band.


One of the best cuts is “Cineramascope,” which features extra horn action too, thanks to Trombone Shorty and Corey Henry (trombonist from the Rebirth Brass Band.) Bassist Robert Mercurio and keyboardist Rich Vogel get a deep groove going with Moore, giving the trombones and saxman Ben Ellman a great platform to jam over. Henry played a number of shows with the band on their fall tour and the chemistry shows. This track is probably the closest on the album to what the band sounds like live these days. Another stand-out is “Dark Water” with John Boutte, which has guitarist Jeff Raines helping to conjure a gritty yet still ever-groovy vibe with some slick bluesy riffage. Irma Thomas brings some old school soul to “Heart of Steel,” while Big Chief Bo Dollis does the same in a more up-tempo way on “Wild Man.” Allen Toussaint guests on “Bacchus” and sings about getting with the future so you don’t get left behind. This is a concept that Galactic personifies, blending jazzy old school roots with their trademark future-funk. Legendary guitarist Walter “Wolfman” Washington also shows up to bring his patented old-school bluesy vibe to the slow burning “Speaks His Mind.”

Hip-hop out of the New Orleans subgenre known as bounce is featured on several tracks, with the band taking the opportunity to introduce several gender-bending “sissy rappers.” Big Freedia throws it down over a slamming beat in “Double It,” while Katey Red and Sissy Nobby dual with each other on the high-energy “Katey vs. Nobby.” But the best bounce song on the album is “Do It Again,” featuring Cheeky Black on a cut that’s so hot they reprise it at the end of the album. The ridiculous video for the song is to be avoided, but the audio track rocks. Using so many different guests could create a disjointed feel, but Galactic tie it all together with a cohesive vibe thanks to their ace musicianship that serves as the foundation. (Anti- 2010)

Galactic MySpace page