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Galactic: Winter Tour

Sirius XM Jam On Presents

Galactic: Winter Tour

The Bright Light Social Hour

Feb 15 Wed

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

The Rialto Theatre

$26 - $28

This event is all ages

Galactic
Galactic
It’s been more than 20 years since Ben Ellman, Robert Mercurio, Stanton Moore, Jeff Raines and Rich Vogel began exploring the seemingly limitless musical possibilities born out of their work together as Galactic. Since then, the seminal New Orleans band has consistently pushed artistic boundaries on the road and in the studio, approaching their music with open ears and drawing inspiration as much from the sounds bubbling up from their city’s streets as they do from each other.

A key part of that creative spark comes from the teamwork of Mercurio and Ellman, whose ever-evolving production and arranging skills helped usher the band into a new phase of studio work beginning with the loop-centric “Ruckus” in 2007. A series of albums focused around specific concepts like Carnival followed, as did collaborations with guests hailing from worlds outside the one Galactic calls its own.

On “Into the Deep,” the band members look within themselves instead, drawing inspiration from people and ideas that have long been close to their hearts – and, in turn, close to the development of their unique sound. Shot through with soul, funk, blues and rock, the result is an organic riff on elements of Galactic’s past, filtered through the lens of where they’re headed in 2015.

“I see this album as a kind of culmination of all of our collaborations or experiences, from [trombonist] Corey Henry to the people we met on the road, touring,” says Mercurio, referencing Ellman’s first full-time gig in New Orleans, which kicked off when Henry hired him into the Little Rascals Brass Band in 1989.

“The previous albums took us in the opposite direction,” Mercurio says. “We collaborated with rappers that we had never dealt with and even on the New Orleans tracks, we didn’t have working experience with most of those artists before the recordings.”

In contrast, “Into the Deep” contributors like JJ Grey, David Shaw and Maggie Koerner spent significant time touring with Galactic. A few years ago, Mavis Staples sat in with the band, all of whom are longtime fans of the legendary singer’s R&B-meets-gospel soul style. They caught up with Macy Gray when she performed a memorable concert at Tipitina’s where Ellman says he could see from the outset “how much she cares about the music.” And each of the players had also developed a deep appreciation for the Honorable South’s Charm Taylor, whose contribution, “Right On” was written specifically to suit her vibe.

“Quint Davis [the producer of] Jazz Fest always has a couple people he books at the festival that aren’t big names but that Quint knows are going to be super cool,” says Ellman. “That’s how we met Brushy One-String. We originally wanted to bring him in to do anything, just to see what would happen. But when we heard his song ‘Chicken in the Corn,’ we really wanted to do our version of it.”

In the end, he joined them on the road for over a month, collaborating with the band onstage at each show.

For the instrumental tracks, Galactic mined the interests and tastes they’ve cultivated together for years in New Orleans. “Buck 77” was written via improvisation, a long-standing cornerstone of their live shows. The funky bass line and tumbling guitar part on “Long Live the Borgne,” meanwhile, represents an updated, more composed take on some of the concepts that made early albums like “Coolin’ Off” so strong.

As for the opener “Soogar Doosie,” Ellman points out Galactic tends to record at least one track on each album that speaks to the band’s collective love of brass band music.

“We write [those songs] with the idea of how awesome it would be to hear the Rebirth going down doing the street in a second line playing one of our songs. We try to think of a real second line song that would get people slapping stop signs and dancing on cars,” he says.

The album, Ellman says “is all about people. It’s these connections we’ve made over 20 years. They’re people in our orbit that have come into our little world and affected us in some way.”

It’s also about how the individual musicians within Galactic have grown over time. When it comes to trying new approaches as players, producers, songwriters and arrangers, Ellman muses, “it’s an evolution.”
The Bright Light Social Hour
The Bright Light  Social Hour
“continually exhilarating” - NPR

“This band brings a live rawness that masterfully bleeds into their records. It’s an unmatched je ne sais quoi that makes their sound relatable to the listener and devoid of condescension” – Life + Times

Questions bring art to life. Songs can still ponder socio-political issues, the fragility and isolation of the human condition, and what lies ahead for earth. Moreover, music possesses the potential and gravitas to incite change, while reflecting the world’s faults and follies. The Bright Light Social Hour contemplate a “Future South” on their second full-length album, Space Is Still the Place [Frenchkiss Records]. The Austin artists—Curtis Roush [guitar, vocals, synths], Jack O'Brien [bass, vocals, synths], Joseph Mirasole [drums, synths], and Edward Brailiff [synths, keys, guitars] —offer a different interpretation of the space around them throughout ten thematically connected songs. They tackle a myriad of issues head on during tracks such as “Ghost Dance” and “Ouroboros,” while “Infinite Cities” contemplates loneliness and “Escape Velocity” subtly hints at a orgiastic ending. The album will pose a few questions, but you may leave with an answer or two as well.

The Bright Light Social Hour released their self-titled debut in 2010 and scored six awards at SXSW 2011 Austin Music Awards. Throughout nearly three years on the road, they experienced the ins and outs of America, and that voyage ignited a perspective shift. “The new album’s themes and inspirations came from touring, particularly the southern part of the country,” explains Jack. “We couldn’t afford to stay in hotels most nights so we were staying with a lot of people. We got to see how average young Americans lived. We felt a lot of struggle.”

“It was shocking,” adds Curtis. “We realized how few individuals were working jobs they felt self-actualized by to some extent. They’re pedaling for survival. Our generation has grown up in continuous financial crises, a lot of unemployment, a lack of opportunity, widening inequality, and pervasive issues of race, gender, and class. We’re taking a lens to some of these gritty realities and espousing an optimistic, frontier-looking gaze into the future.” Theirs is not just a thematic progression though. Traversing the country and cranking tunes in the van, the collective musical palette expanded, embracing influences as diverse as deep house icon Frankie Knuckles, dance renegades Disclosure, Motown legends like Marvin Gaye, and Detroit Afro-rock revolutionaries Black Merda. Everything siphoned into the vision behind Space Is Still the Place. Building a studio in their Austin home, the boys began their musical journey in early 2013.

“We’re all ostensibly southerners,” Curtis continues. “The South has great food, a relaxed pace, and sweet, well-mannered folk. However, a lot of issues aren’t going away. ‘Future South’ is both an aesthetic and political statement. We’re taking forms and influences from soul, blues, and gritty southern music and ushering them forward. ‘Future South’ evinces the south can be a vibrant egalitarian place. You can love barbecue and not be racist.”

“The dichotomy exists musically,” says Jack. “Some songs mirror these harsh truths with guitars and blues energy. Meanwhile, the dreamier electronic-influenced moments are about escaping those dark realities and going to a place symbolized by space.” Opener “Sweet Madelene,” which Curtis dubs “the most southern rock of the bunch,” tempers guitars thick enough to rustle tumbleweed with a bombastic beat and emotive, soulful vocals.

“Slipstream” could be considered “a death train for the ego,” acting as a clarion call to let go of isolation and join the communal struggle under a haze of hypnotic delay and haunting textures. The ethereal “Dreamlove” blasts off on a synth swell, conjuring the image of what Jack likes to describe as “waking up in a hospital on a spaceship.”

The propulsive bass riff of “Ghost Dance” augments its magnetic pull. “At this point, the record trajectory breaks out of the atmosphere and moves into the stratosphere,” Jack goes on. “It’s a call to the community. We want to encourage using the power of togetherness to effect change.”

Their version of a love song is the dreamy and strangely danceable “Sea of the Edge,” painting a lunar portrait that’s infectious and inviting. After the pensive and potent “Aperture”, “Ouroboros” directly compares those stuck in that cycle of banality to the mythical snake who eats its own tail over buzzing guitars.

The album’s first release “Infinite Cities” coasts ahead on a driving beat before building into one of its sweetest refrains. Accompanied by a transfixing video, it bristles with a bright energy. “Now, we’ve been away from our families and the ones we love so much—literally gone on the road and figuratively away in Austin while making the album,” states Curtis. “We still found a sense of hope in that distance, becoming closer and reimagining what community is. It’s like finding a way home no matter where you are.”

“The Moon” and “Escape Velocity” provide a subtly hopeful dénouement, leaving listeners with breathy optimism. Jacks reveals, “You wake up from that dream, realizing humanity may end someday, but you still have to work toward progress anyway.”

Ultimately, The Bright Light Social Hour will unite people. “We’re all together, but we have a lot of individual power,” concludes Jack. “We want every listener in the audience to have his or her own experience—but together.”

Jo leaves off, “As far as the south goes, it can be a place that exists and participates in the future. I’d love to see more southern bands think about the future. They respect the past so much. At one point, those classic artists forged new paths, but we’re treading the same paths they did fifty years ago. Musical generations passed by and respected their elders so much they forgot to kill them.”

Space Is Still the Place is out now on Frenchkiss Records (worldwide) and MapleMusic Recordings (Canada).