Galactic / Tishamingo, Georgia Theatre, Athens, GA- 4/17/04
You have to envy every kid that lives in Clarke County, Georgia. It's like an all-you-can-eat-buffet every meal of every day of your life in a world where fat people are revered. What's this guy talking about?' you ask. It so happens that Athens, Georgia rests in Clarke and is home to the Georgia Theatre, which hosts a bevy of badass jam band talent in her belly night after night, year after year.
Tonight's show was a healthy dose of emerging local talent and a bum rush from a national powerhouse packing a mystery. Athens' own adopted sons Tishamingo tore open a night of music like a buzzard does a possum, not playing, in the ditch off the road. They were Southern jamming gentlemen led by a pair of frontmen that never challenged, yet instead, always complemented each other. Jess Franklin and Cameron Williams took turns guiding us through a swampy set highlighted by a Led Zeppelin cover and several originals that were distinctly Tishamingo— and by that I mean it was all familiar. The band plays music that's been played before, but its that sense of, call it deja vu or call it timelessness, that makes it hard not to close your eyes, nod your head, and ride it out. It's like comfort food. Noticeably absent from the set were any tunes from their recently released self
titled effort. The Theatre show impressed everyone- especially those folks that had come in from out of town. The band showcased individual's strengths, with each taking tasteful solos while the rest remained pocket tight rather than lose interest if it wasn't their moment to shine. Jason Fuller's work on the keys and Stephen Spivey's personality and bass lines really made the evening memorable. The jam community has embraced them, and the festival circuit will keep them busy and outdoors for the next few months, but Tishamingo is a rock band, albeit Southern and without a doubt from an Allman vein- nonetheless they are a rock band, and every bit as 1978 as the stuff that was actually ripping arenas in 78.
From southern rock to outer space sonic rock, the 180-degree roundabout set in motion when Galactic hit the stage and didn't waste a second ripping into "Moil," off of their most recent release Ruckus. The crowd was plugged in and it was impossible to keep your eyes from wandering with so much eye candy— a huge video display behind the band featured a variety of killer images that were suspiciously in sync with the music (more on this point later) and drum style so captivating, it kept me on the verge of a non epileptic seizure all night. Incidentally, this was the first show I reviewed with my knowledgeable photographer Josh Cuiallard, who as a drummer was most impressed with his first installment of the Stanton Moore show. After the show Josh recalled just how impressed he was with how intense Moore was blasting the skins on his 1960’s Gretch Vintage drums, saying, "He’s probably more fun to watch than any other band member, without Stanton Galactic probably wouldn’t exist." Admittedly, that was pretty insightful for a casual fan checking out the band for the very first time. I would argue that Ben Ellman is the vital cog in the current incarnation of the band. As for my mention that the audio and visual experience appeared too perfectly paired to be a coincidence— unlike that garbage about Dark Side of the Moon and the Wizard of Oz, c’mon people, please! The complaint from some in the community is that the set lists and overall show experiences don’t vary much from town to town since the release of Ruckus. While that may be true, I hope that those complaining understand that their argument is riddled with bullet holes and hypocrisy. Consider if you will that the complaint is that Galactic is playing the same songs night in and night out (after releasing the first album with real songs in their history) while these fans are seeing the same band night in and night out. How's that for lack of variety. And trust me these fans can't complain about lack of material— there are plenty of good bands around these days…it's no longer necessary to load up the Vanagon and chase just one. Galactic answered the critics in a most unusual and unintentional way tonight at the Georgia Theatre, as Theryl "Houseman" DeClouet called in sick. While he toiled under the weather in an undisclosed location the kids inside the Georgia Theatre were ready to embrace his replacement, literally. Teedy Boutte was easy on the eyes and ears— something I can't claim of the Houseman with confidence or without ridicule. She quickly claimed "Never Called You Crazy" and "Gypsy Fade" for herself during the first set and then exited slowly with all eyes affixed on her until she completely disappeared backstage.
The second set was a healthier mix of the old and the new— with show stopping highlights "Don't Do It" with the guys from Tishamingo sitting in, and a set ending Zeppelin cover— the incomparable "Whole Lotta Love." Galactic chewed it up, and instead of delivering Jimmy Page guitar slinging riffs they served it up in their own funky way. The encore offered one more glimpse of Boutte belting a wild blues wail on "No, No, No."
My advice: Catch Galactic when they roll through your town, and if you feel compelled to follow them around because no one else quite a s cool is heading to your neighborhood soon, then move. Try Athens, where variety is the spice of life.
David Eduardo with Josh Cuillard
Photos by Josh Cuillard