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‘Get ready to dance’

Joel Stonington
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Galactic, that fresh fusion of funkiness, is going to rock the Belly Up tonight and Wednesday.”Get ready to dance,” bassist Robert Mercurio said by phone from San Diego. That’s not a surprising comment from Mercurio; New York Times music critic Jon Pareles called Galactic’s music “some of the most danceable on earth.”When the band first got together in New Orleans in 1994, it essentially was going after the sound funk legends the Meters minted. Galactic quickly went beyond that, releasing its first album in 1996. The group eventually built its own studio in the warehouse district of New Orleans so the bandmates could have as much time as they wanted to record. Many of their songs come out of improvisations in live shows and the notes they would make afterward.But a lot’s changed in recent times.”We lost our studio,” Mercurio said, referring to damage from Hurricane Katrina. “The building was condemned ’cause one of the walls fell down. That’s been tough trying to figure out a new studio situation.”But it hasn’t stopped the band from playing. In fact, Galactic’s first post-Katrina gig was in Aspen.”It was hard. It was a hard show to play,” he said. “It was sunny and beautiful, everyone was like ‘yeah.’ We were supposed to be the good-time funk band. We were blown away about what happened.”Everyone in the band suffered varying degrees of damage to his home or apartment. Keyboard player Rich Vogel basically lost everything; guitarist Jeff Raines lost only one window.”I’m in the middle, with roof damage, a fence … the list goes on,” Mercurio said. “Everyone is just so overwhelmed. It’s just really depressing to see this town you call your home and 80 percent of it is destroyed.”It’s not all bad news, however. “I’ve been playing around town with people and everyone is excited to go see music. They’re not taking it for granted as much,” he said. “People have fallen back in love with the city. Most people I talk to just couldn’t wait to get back. That’s definitely on the positive side.”Like many New Orleans residents, the members of Galactic are bouncing back – slowly. The band is working on a new album and hunting for a new studio space. The musicians are also finding some excitement in playing fully instrumental once again. Since the 2004 departure of vocalist Theryl “Houseman” DeClouet, the five-piece band has gone back to its roots. Drummer Stanton Moore and Mercurio hold down the rhythm section. Raines is on guitar, Vogel plays the Hammond B3 and keyboards, and Ben Ellman is on the sax. They mix it up as much as possible, with plenty of jazz, blues, funk and even a touch of Mercurio and Raines’ earliest passion, punk. “It’s an exciting challenge sometimes to get over on a crowd with no vocalist – you already have one notch against you,” Mercurio said. “We were always majority nonvocal. It wasn’t that much of a change for us. Two-thirds of the set were already instrumental. Now the show has more continuity, it has a more continual flow.”As for the band’s two-night stand in Aspen, Mercurio said Galactic is thrilled to be playing a smaller club. “… One of the nights is Valentine’s Day,” he said, “so bring your sweetheart.”Showtime for Galactic is 10:30 p.m. and doors open at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $25.Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is jstonington@aspentimes.com


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