For the last few years, every halfway decent hippie I know has tried to convince me that Galactic, the New Orleans birthed jam/funk/rock band is the second coming of Jesus, Buddha and Timothy Leary all in one. So it was with high expectations that I headed to the Pageant last week to see the band touring on the strength of their new album Ya-Ka-May along with openers Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe.
Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe was scheduled to play at 8 and started at 8:02 (!), to a suprisingly full and energized auditorium. I’d like to send my appreciation out to the sound guy for the show; if you’ve been to the Pageant before, you know how sick the sound system is – and Thursday night, it was mixed damn near perfectly with crystal clear sounds befitting the amazing musicians in Tiny Universe. The band played a nice mix of electric jazz/funk/soul with a definite 80s vibe. Highlights included a long, moody take on Denson’s original “The Answer,” a grooving cover of the recently-departed Teddy Pendgrass’s “Love TKO,” and even a short version of Outkast’s “SpottieOtieDopaliscious.” Denson was on top of his game wailing on the sax and soulful lead vocals – he even had people going crazy for a flute solo. I haven’t seen that since middle school. Stephanie G., Carbondale’s preeminent Denson fan, reported: “It was a great show because he played a lot of stuff off of his old album; sexy, neo-soul, R & B slower songs. Karl Denson should have been the headliner, no question. He is the best of the best!”
As for Galactic: damn, do they have some rhythm. There may not have been a white band that can groove this well since the Allman Brothers. They take the classic New Orleans funk and brass sound and make it heavy as shit with organ, bass, and drums; and, of course, let the horns blow, motherfucker, blow. No bullshit subtlety here – saxaphonist Ben Ellman and guest trombonist Corey Henry of Rebirth Brass Band were at max volume the whole night, while the rhythm section produced a extra thick and hypnotyzing groove that was blowing minds (judging by the smell, there was some help) . The band mixed long instrumental jams with some well known covers – and lots and lots of energy. Members of Denson’s band came out to help for two songs as well. The guy in front of me was dancing like a 4 year old, the guy next to me did the robot for two hours, and the guy behind me fell asleep after one song. That’s what the audience response was: if you could lock in to their New Orleans via Detroit monster groove, it was a hell of a time; otherwise, forget it.