Ready for liftoff: Galactic lands in Frisco for two nights
IF YOU GO
What: Galactic featuring Erica Falls with Con Brio
When: Friday, March 15 and Saturday, March 16. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the show starts at 9.
Where: 10 Mile Music Hall, 710 Main St., Frisco.
Cost: $35–$40. Visit 10MileMusic.com to purchase.
Hot off the release of their 10th album, “Already Ready Already,” New Orleans-based funk band Galactic is coming to town. The rhythm-heavy group known for blending blues, jazz, hip-hop, rock and electronic sounds will perform in Frisco on Friday and Saturday.
Keyboardist Richard Vogel, whose parents met in Colorado, is an avid hiker and glad to have the extra time to stretch his legs.
“When you only have a day (to ski), I’m not going to go through the whole routine. … It’s too much. Really I just need to walk off the bus and get away,” he said, explaining why he prefers hiking while on tour.
When not walking on a mountain trail, he and the rest of Galactic can be found in the Crescent city recording or sharing the stage with legends such as Macy Gray, Mavis Staples, The Roots, Boots Riley and others, including having performed with B.B. King.
“I remember one evening in Boston we went out and hung out with (King) in the back lounge where he was kind of just holding court with his laptop just spinning tracks, listening to music,” Vogel said. “Those are the things you’ll never forget.”
Vogel attributes those partnerships as a factor in the band’s longevity. Formed in 1994, they recorded their first album in ’95 and hit the road in ’96. Bass player Robert Mercurio and guitarist Jeff Raines founded the group when they moved to New Orleans from Maryland for college. Always ones to play in neighborhood garage bands, they quickly tapped into the local scene and found drummer Stanton Moore and Vogel, in part due to their connections to Loyola University. Vogel would frequently go to their house parties, since they lived in the same part of uptown New Orleans, and was invited into the band along with saxophonist Ben Ellman.
“They had this old, crappy rehearsal space in a fire hazard of a warehouse and then that was it,” Vogel said. “We recognized right away that we were a rhythm section — keyboard, bass, drums, guitar. That’s the Meter’s instrumentation. And Booker T. & the M.G.’s. And James Brown’s rhythm section.”
The musical allure of The Big Easy is what drew the Omaha, Nebraska-native to the city when Vogel was a senior in high school visiting with a friend during Jazz Fest.
“It was just such an interesting and intriguing idea,” said Vogel. “I didn’t know of anyone else going to New Orleans. When you’re in high school the top students you know are trying to go to East Coast schools or whatever. And other people are going to Midwestern schools. … I left that trip not knowing where I was going to go to school, but knowing it was going to be in New Orleans.”
One would think such a place swimming in soundscapes would make it difficult for a new band, but, though they may not have thought it at the time, Vogel believes the city was a great boost.
“There was so much to go around, to check out, to be inspired from. But it was also relatively easy to get a gig somewhere once we had something together because there was music being played every night.”
It didn’t hurt that New Orleans was cheap to live in back then, too.
“That also helped us get by and not really get real jobs. I worked at like a coffee shop and rug store delivering rugs and things like that. Rob was waiting tables, but we were all living in these somewhat decrepit, but beautiful, big uptown houses that would now cost a lot and we were paying nothing. It gave us time and place to practice our craft.”
Vogel’s passion for music came from his family. Because he was so infatuated with his mother’s stereo system — which he would use to play his father’s New Orleans jazz records or his older brother’s copy of Led Zeppelin’s “IV” — she got him started on piano lessons when he was young.
It soon lead to Vogel listening to ’70s-era Mile Davis, Herbie Hancock, Lonnie Smith, Jimmy Smith and other jazz-funk musicians play the organ and clavinet — a keyboard-like instrument — in interesting ways as their basement became a jam room for him and other high school students.
“That’s what really cemented it. These are like the greatest musicians I’ve heard. … Then I came down to New Orleans and it was The Meters at Tipitina’s. So then I got this whole sort of New Orleans education at the clubs. … That’s what pulled the four of us together and later Ben.”
In fact, Galactic learned to jam together via The Meter’s influential instrumental album “Look-Ka Py Py.” The band still considers themselves to be “an overgrown rhythm section,” but that doesn’t stop guest vocalists appearing on tracks or on tour.
For their latest album, released three years after collaborating with Staples, Galactic chose a different path with New Orleans singer and YouTube star Princess Shaw on “Going Straight Crazy” and cabaret rapper Boyfriend on “Dance At My Funeral.” Yet when it comes to touring, one artist, Erica Falls, has the honor of being the vocalist for all songs.
“We have to find someone special who can represent a lot of this different stuff, whether it’s a female singer, male singer, the original singer. It takes a singer of a pretty high caliber to do that.”
Galactic fans will be pleased to know that they won’t have to wait three years for their next album. The recording session for “Already Ready Already” was so fruitful that the band has enough material for another LP that may drop later in 2019. Though details still have to be finalized, an unheard instrumental track has already been appearing during live performances.
“Sometimes it takes a while to feel like you really have some good, new material because you want to present,” Vogel said. “But we seem to be in a good space with it now. It will not be three years until the next Galactic record. I can safely say that.”
If you can’t make it this weekend, take comfort in knowing that it won’t be long until fresh Galactic tunes grace your ears.
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