For my first time at the Ogden in Denver, I had the pleasure of witnessing one of the first bands that fueled my interest in funk music, Galactic. This five-piece New Orleans ensemble comprised of Jeff Raines (guitar), Robert Mercurio (bass), Richard Vogel (keys), Ben Ellman (sax, harmonica), and Stanton Moore (drums) took the stage at 10pm after the well received opener, Monophonics primed the crowd for some brass filled funk. With the addition of a regular sit in from trombone player, Corey “Boe Money” Henry, the band blasted into Karate, a hard hitting tune from their latest album, Carnivale Electricos, that does a great job of capturing the sound of a funky marching band. This first tune featured some small solo sections from each of the band members. Right off the bat, most notably was the superb connection between Ellman’s sax and Henry’s trombone, layering solos over each other without stepping on anyone’s toes, they immediately kicked the theater’s energy right in the ass. Next, the band brought out singer/hype man Corey Glover, of Living Colour who continued to sit in on many of the tunes for the rest of the night. Glover’s natural talent of capturing an audience and sustaining their energy can be compared to the eclectic Nigel Hall, however I’ve never heard Nigel hit some of those piercing highs!
After one of their more popular songs, Hey NANA, Glover stepped off the stage, and the band went into a snake-charmer-sounding groove called Balkan Wedding. This song started out with a bass and drum jam, then some well placed funk chords from Raines that got people dancing. Next, a brief horns layer accented the groove, which lead into the true middle eastern-sounding melody, where Raines and Vogel matched each other on every note. Vogel’s organ solo in this jam took the crowd on a journey through the desert and back. A little back and forth between the horns and guitar finished out the song with a bang. Next, the band launched into Cineramascope off of their record, Ya-Ka-May, that started with another bass/drums groove, in which Ellman’s droning sax resembled the sound of a Hindustani tambura, which Henry bounced off of accordingly. After the groove was established, Henry came charging out to the front of the stage wielding his trombone, and blew the lid off the joint with the highest energy solo yet that featured a little taste of the, “Outkast horns”. Another mentionable component from this jam was Vogel’s effective use of broken/percussive techniques on the organ.
Later in the set, the powerful tune, Heart Of Steel rallied the crowd into a soulful frenzy of song and dance. During this tune, we got a dose of Ellman’s wailing harmonica, which led the group into a dark keys/drums jam where the room watched as Moore made every cymbal on the extensive kit his bitch. The song climaxed with glover hollering in a frequency that only dogs can hear, then he stepped to the front of the stage and nodded to the crowd in a sort of, “Yea, that’s right bitches” attitude. Another huge crowd pleaser was From The Corner To The Block, where Henry displayed his impressive musicianship by switching back and forth between rapping and playing the trombone. When Henry summoned the crowd into a big, “fuck yea” chant, it seemed that Glover had some competition to see who was the best hype man. The set concluded with a particularly nasty bass solo from Mercurio where he utilized some interesting open string techniques as well as what I have come to know as some sweet Jaco-slides, and finally a well-anticipated drum solo from Moore, who had the whole stage to himself. The crowd watched as new ideas and rhythms constantly poured out of him including some really interesting muting/pitch bending techniques that had my mind blown.
Last but certainly not least was a Sympathy For The Devil encore that had the crowd singing, “wooh wooh!” long after the music stopped. The show ended around 1230, and the crowd made of mostly late-twenties Denver folk headed into the streets to drink on. As for me, I set off onto 36 with my loyal photographer, Harvdog to live to funk another day.