Galactic goes ‘Deep’ at Belly Up Aspen
If You Go …
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Sunday, Feb. 21, 9 p.m.
How much: $38-$65
Tickets: Belly Up box office; http://www.bellyupaspen.com
Last week at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Galactic did its annual carnival duty for the band’s native city, playing through the night until sunrise on Fat Tuesday morning at Tipitina’s. But these funk stalwarts didn’t take much time to rest after the annual marathon three-set show — they hit the road and will perform at Belly Up Aspen on Sunday.
“That show has become something of legend,” Galactic bassist Rob Mercurio said in a phone interview from New Orleans. “People are like, ‘Oh, you guys played until 9 in the morning.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, I don’t think it was quite 9.’ But let the legend proceed.”
The Galactic live shows in Aspen have earned a reputation of their own. The band makes regular stops here, playing festivals and Belly Up gigs on its frequent runs across Colorado. Its members never seem to repeat themselves, as from album to album and tour to tour they explore fresh, creative veins in funk, rock and hip-hop and play live shows filled with free funk jams and dance-friendly songs out of the brass-band tradition.
The band is currently touring in support of the new album “Into the Deep,” released in July and featuring the high caliber of guest talent that fans have come to expect from Galactic records. In this case, guests include vocalists Macy Gray, who leads on vocals on the title single, J.J. Grey and Mavis Staples.
Galactic, Mercurio said, tends to write a song together and then brainstorm about what singer might best fit the sound. For vocals, they might call on an old friend such as Grey or newer friends they meet on the road or around New Orleans. Staples, who sings on “Does It Really Make a Difference” on the new record, performed with the band at New York concerts years ago.
“Since then, every time we see her at a festival or in an airport, we say, ‘Hey,’ and that was a song that we had written with someone like her in mind,” Mercurio said. “We wanted an iconic soul singer to sing that.”
The band met Gray backstage at one of her shows in New Orleans in 2014, hit it off and ended up performing together on a festival tour last year. Naturally, she joined the band in the studio on “Into the Deep.”
And some of the time, like on the throwback funk number “Long Live the Borgne,” which has been a high point of recent live shows, the band sticks to instrumentals.
The open-minded, open-eared members of Galactic have consistently expanded the band’s musical boundaries over the past two decades — from the techno-influenced, loop-heavy sound of 2003’s “Ruckus” to the hip-hop of 2007’s “From the Corner to the Block” to the 2012 Mardi Gras concept album “Carnivale Electricos.” On “Into the Deep,” the band offers tight dance rock, soul and funk in songs that no doubt will expand and mutate on the road, along with insta-classic Galactic jazz-funk instrumental tracks.
Last year, the band also charted some new territory with its own music festival, The Landing, which debuted in September on the shores of Lake Ponchartrain featuring acts like Grace Potter, Dr. Dog, Cake and Trampled by Turtles alongside Galactic. It’s due for its second offering this fall.
“We’ve been doing festivals forever as a band and just kind of thought that we could add something to the festival circuit,” Mercurio said. “It’s something that we’ve wanted to do for a while, and we found the perfect spot for it in New Orleans on the Lakefront. So it all just fell into place at the right time.”
Back in 2013, while working on a proposed box set of archival recordings, singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge came across a group of songs that had been recorded in the late 1980s but never released.
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