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Published: 2008/10/30
by Randy Ray

Galactic and The Crown City Rockers, The Fillmore, New York, NY- 10/17

The Brass Tacks Tour hit New York City in grand fashion as Galactic packed the Fillmore at Irving Plaza on a special run of shows featuring Shamarr Allen on trumpet, and Corey Henry on trombone. Indeed, the band brought the N'awlins vibe into the Big Apple, and crafted a consistently engaging and multi-layered evening of funk, rap, hip-hop, house, and straight up heavy rock music. It was also a great night of old school jamband magic packed into one giant set of high energy songs.

The mojo was in the house right at the beginning as the quintet began the gig, sans horns, with a raucous trio commencing with "Spiderbite," pounding into "Hit the Wall," and taking a turn into "The Moil," before Allen and Henry appeared on "Bongo the Dog," and lifted the set into the stratosphere from whence it didn’t budge. On this evening, there were no scheduled MCs, or DJs playing with Galactic; instead, the band chose a massively exploratory Horn Odyssey which bobbed and weaved, jabbed and pounded a few choice uppercuts through a smoking six song tandem featuring "Who Took the Happiness Out?" and "Tuff Love." Each musician-especially the inspired saxophonist and harmonica player, Ben Ellman-seemed to want to challenge the two special guests in a race of fluctuating rhythm, acrobatic musicianship, parallel hook development and, most prominently, "How fast can I possibly play without passing out?"

The MC vibe, not anticipated for this tour, returned, as the opening act Crown City Rockers (more on that band later) brought out their front man, rapper Raashan Ahmad for a raucous romp of "Let It Go," from his own solo album, B Sides, Bootlegs & Rarities, Vol. 2. Mixed in with the rigorous horns and the always tight Galactic quintet with Stanton Moore holding the groove down in the engine room, Ahmad, Allen, and Henry managed to deliver an electric collaboration that had the floor and the balcony above rocking in tandem with a mid-set peak performance.

Galactic wisely returned the focus back to the quintet and ripped into the heavy rock portion of the well-paced program as they tore into "Metermaid>Two Dots," and later "Doo Rag>Go Go," and "Garbage Truck." Moore and bassist Robert Mercurio wove a taut, consistent rhythmic thread through the whole run of songs, while Richard Vogel on keyboards layered colors. Guitarist Jeff Raines managed to somehow burst out from the mix on several occasions, including late in the set as he played slide on a dynamic sequence, which also featured Ellman on harmonica. Mooreagainwhat can one say that hasn’t already been said? He continued to kick major ass, as usual, lurching from his drum kit during a particularly raging moment, and smashing the cymbals and drum kit at a peak moment in the jam. Some things will never get old, and the band, again, delivered great balance and energy throughout the set, including these later passages.

Allen and Henry returned on horns to play on the crowd-pleasing title track from Galactic’s latest album, From the Corner to the Block, before encoring with the humorously funktastic groove of Herbie Hancock’s "Rockit," and the final payoff of

"Baker’s Dozen," to close the invigorating set of timeless, memorable, danceable and hot New Orleans Meets the World music.

The Crown City Rockers opened the gig as the audience poured into the Fillmore, and hail from Oakland, California, which seemed a tad appropriate since I grew up 20 minutes from that blue collar town. It was good to hear the old school hip-hop with a heavy modern beat, and songs that, throughout their brief set, increasingly engaged, instead of repelling the audience. The Rockers, with Raashan Ahmad leading the vocal charge, won over the crowd, but what I noticed, and became quite apparent during their set, was their game-changing keyboard player, Kat Ouano, who arced in and above the beat, coloring furious tones with rhythmic flair, and an uncanny ability to tweak the jam.

Ouano also goes by the computer-and-numerically appropriate name of Kat 010, and has a downtempo and ambient gem of a solo release called Natural Phenomenoms. Ouano appeared to be able to play just about anything on her numerous keyboards, and while the band was especially good at delivering memorable hooks, choruses, and cool sound bites, it was Ouano who took the most astonishing solo turns, as she layered the rhythms and sonic-sound collages with depth, meaning, and great soul. The band is worth checking out, but Ouano is really worth a spotlight or two in her own right, and the Crown City Rockers served as that rare treat-an opening act worth showing up early for when the headliner is quite good in its own right.

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