Galactic, JJ Grey & Mofro

Galactic

JJ Grey & Mofro

Sat, February 15, 2014

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

Terminal 5

New York, NY

$30 advance / $40 day of show

This event is all ages

Galactic
Galactic
It's incredible that GALACTIC has never made a carnival album yet, but now it’s here.
To make CARNIVALE ELECTRICOS, the members of GALACTIC (Ben Ellman, harps and horns; Robert Mercurio, bass; Stanton Moore, drums and percussion; Jeff Raines, guitar; Rich Vogel, keyboards) draw on the skills, stamina, and funk they deploy in the all-night party of their annual Lundi Gras show that goes till sunrise and leads sleeplessly into Mardi Gras day.

GALACTIC was formed eighteen years ago in New Orleans, and they cut their teeth playing the biggest party in America: Mardi Gras, when the town shuts down entirely to celebrate. CARNIVALE ELECTRICOS is beyond a party record. It’s a carnival record that evokes the electric atmosphere of a whole city – make that, whole cities – vibrating together all on the same day, from New Orleans all down the hemisphere to the mighty megacarnivals of Brazil. Armed with a slew of carnival-ready guests from high-school students to 72-year-old AL “CARNIVAL TIME” JOHNSON (who remakes his all-time hit), GALACTIC whisks the listener around the neighborhoods to feel the Mardi Gras moment in all its variety of flavors.



CARNIVALE ELECTRICOS begins on a spiritual note, the way Mardi Gras does in the black community of New Orleans. On that morning, the most exciting experience you can have is to be present when the small groups of black men called Mardi Gras Indians perform their sacred street theater. Nobody embodies the spiritual side of Mardi Gras better than the Indians, whose tambourines and chants provide the fundament of New Orleans carnival music. These “gangs,” as they call them, organize around and protect the figure of their chief. The album’s keynote singer, WAR CHIEF JUAN PARDO, is, says Robert Mercurio, “one of the younger Chiefs out there, and he’s become one of the best voices of the new Chiefs. Pardo grew up listening to the singing of the older generation of Big Chiefs, points out Ben Ellman, and “he’s got a little Monk [Boudreaux], a little Bo Dollis, he’s neither uptown nor downtown.”

On “Karate,” says Ellman, the band was aiming to “capture the power” of one of the fundamental musical experiences of Mardi Gras: “a marching band passing by you.” The 40-piece KIPP RENAISSANCE HIGH SCHOOL MARCHING BAND’s director arranged up GALACTIC’s demo, then the band rehearsed it until they had it all memorized. The kids poured their hearts into a solid performance, and, says Mercurio, “I think they were surprised” to hear how good they sounded on the playback.

Musical energy is everywhere at carnival time. “You hear the marching bands go by,” says Mercurio, moving us through a Mardi Gras day, “and then you hear a lot of hiphop.” There hasn’t been a Mardi Gras for twenty years that hasn’t had a banging track by beatmaker / rapper MANNIE FRESH sounding wherever you go. “You can’t talk about New Orleans hiphop without talking about MANNIE FRESH,” says Ellman. His beats have powered literally tens of millions of records, and he and GALACTIC have been talking for years about doing something together. On “Move Fast,” he’s together with multiplatinum gravel-voiced rapper MYSTIKAL, who is, says Ellman, “somebody we’ve wanted to collaborate with forever. It was a coup for us.”

Out in the streets of New Orleans, you might well hear a funky kind of samba, reaching southward toward the other end of the hemispheric carnival zone. There has for the last twenty-five years been a smoking Brazilian drum troupe in town: CASA SAMBA, formed at Mardi Gras in 1986. They’re old friends of GALACTIC’s from their early days at Frenchmen Street’s Café Brasil, and the two groups joined forces for a new version of Carlinhos Brown’s “Magalenha,” previously a hit for Sérgio Mendes.

But the Brazilian influence on CARNIVALE ELECTRICOS goes beyond one song. “When we started this album, we all immersed ourselves in Brazilian music and let it get into our souls,” says Mercurio. The group contributed three Brazilian-flavored instrumentals, including “JuLou,” which riffs on an old Brazilian tune, though the name refers to the brass-funk Krewe of Julu, the “walking krewe” that Galactic members participate in on Mardi Gras morning. After creating the hard-driving track that became “O Côco da Galinha,” they decided it would be right for MOYSÉS MÁRQUEZ, from the São Paulo underground samba scene, who collaborated with them and composed the lyric.

If you were GALACTIC and you were making a carnival album, wouldn’t you want to play “Carnival Time,” the irrepressibly happy 1960 perennial from the legendary Cosimo Matassa studio? Nobody in New Orleans doesn’t know this song. The remake features a new performance in the unmistakable voice of the original singer, AL “CARNIVAL TIME” JOHNSON, who’s still active around town more than fifty years after he first gained Mardi Gras immortality.

The closing instrumental, “Ash Wednesday Sunrise,” evokes the edginess of the post-party feeling. The group writes, “There is the tension you feel on that morning -- one of being worn out from all of the festivities and one of elation that you made it through another year.”

But, as New Orleanians know, there’s always another carnival to look forward to, and GALACTIC will be there, playing till dawn and then going to breakfast before parading.

***
GALACTIC is a collaborative band with a unique format. It’s a stable quintet that plays together with high musicianship. They’ve been together so long they’re telepathic. But though the band hasn’t had a lead singer for years, neither is it purely an instrumental group. GALACTIC is part of a diverse community of musicians, and in their own studio, with Mercurio and Ellman producing, they have the luxury of experimenting. So on their albums, they do something that’s unusual in rock but not so controversial an idea in, say, hiphop: they create something that’s a little like a revue, a virtual show featuring different vocalists (mostly from New Orleans) and instrumental soloists each taking their turn on stage in the GALACTIC sound universe.

Mostly the band creates new material in collaboration with its many guests, though they occasionally rework a classic. Despite the appearance of various platinum names on GALACTIC albums, they especially like to work with artists who are still underground. If you listen to CARNIVALE ELECTRICOS together with the two previous studio albums (YA-KA-MAY and FROM THE CORNER TO THE BLOCK), you’ll hear the most complete cross-section of what’s happening in contemporary New Orleans anywhere – all of it tight and radio-ready.

Despite the electronics and studio technology, GALACTIC’s albums are very much band records. Mercurio explained the GALACTIC process, which starts out with the beat: “The way we write music,” he says, “we come up with a demo, or a basic track, and then we collectively decide how we’re gonna finish it.” The result is a hard-grooving sequence of tight beats across a range of styles that glides from one surprise to the next.

What pulls all the diverse artists on CARNIVALE ELECTRICOS together into a coherent album is that one way or another, it’s all funk. GALACTIC is, always was, and always will be a funk band. Whatever genre of music anyone in New Orleans is doing, from Mardi Gras Indians to rock bands to hardcore rappers, it’s all funk at the bottom, because funk is the common musical language, the lingua franca of New Orleans music. Even zydeco can be funky -- and if you don’t believe it, check out “Voyage Ton Flag,” the album’s evocation of Cajun Mardi Gras, in which Mamou Playboy STEVE RILEY meets up with a sampled Clifton Chenier inside the GALACTIC funk machine.
JJ Grey & Mofro
JJ Grey & Mofro
“Just tell the story—there’s nothing else to do,” JJ Grey recently told Relix magazine. Grey’s ability to tell his thought-provoking stories through original songs, informed by a mixture of old school rhythm & blues and down-home roots rock ‘n’ roll, has carried JJ Grey & Mofro from the backwoods of Florida to hundreds of concert stages across the U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan and Australia. Singing with a passion and fervor directly influenced by his classic soul heroes, Grey’s deeply personal songs are steeped in the rhythms of his native home outside of Jacksonville, Florida. Grey comes from a long tradition of southern storytellers and, in that spirit, he fills his songs with details that are at once vivid, personal and universal.

Brighter Days is Grey’s first-ever live DVD/CD. The two-disc set includes a full-length movie and a long-awaited live album. Directed by filmmaker/musician Spookie Daly (whose work has been aired on MTV Networks, Much Music and Fuse), the film intersperses riveting concert footage with the stunning beauty of Grey’s north Florida home, the inspiration for so much of his music. The film also follows Grey and company into the studio and features band interviews along with insightful commentary from Grey and others, recalling the format of classic “rockumentaries.” The accompanying CD captures almost eighty minutes of crowd favorites taken from the night’s performances.

Shot on January 22, 2011 at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, Georgia in stunning HD and boasting 5.1 surround sound, Brighter Days finds JJ (vocals, guitar and harmonica) and his band — Andrew Trube on lap steel and electric guitar, Anthony Farrell on organ and piano, Art Edmaiston on saxophone, Dennis Marion on trumpet, Todd Smallie on bass and Anthony Cole on drums — giving everything they have. Singing and telling stories with preacher-like conviction, JJ breaks down the wall between the audience and the performer. “I’ve always felt that music opens the door,” says Grey, “but we’ve all got to walk through it together.”

The idea for a film was born several years back when Spookie Daly came to Florida from his native Boston to film JJ at his backwoods home. “For years people have been saying to me, ‘You should do a documentary on where you’re from and show that connection to the music,’” states Grey, “and then others have been saying, ‘Y’all should make a concert DVD.’ Meanwhile, every time I turned around someone would say, ‘Y’all need to do a live album.’ So I thought, ‘Let’s do them all!’ That’s when I called Spook,” says JJ.

Spookie and JJ originally met in a Salt Lake City hotel parking lot while both were on tour. “We pulled up to a Travelodge hotel and I hear someone yelling, ‘Hey!’ It was Spookie. He recognized our 15-passenger van as belonging to a fellow road band and we realized we were on the same bill that night. We’ve been hanging ever since.” Their friendship eventually led to Spookie being called in to direct the first JJ Grey video for the single Orange Blossoms. The two teamed up again for the virally popular video for On Fire, set in a miniaturized strip club populated by dolls. “We built the set in my house and played with dolls for four days. I had a lot of explaining to do when people came by and saw two grown men playing with scantily clad dolls,” laughs Grey.

Both as a film and a live concert CD, Brighter Days perfectly captures Grey’s power as a performer and writer, as well as the talent of his heavy-hitting band Mofro. As old fans know well and new ones keep discovering, a JJ Grey & Mofro show is a musical celebration shared between Grey and his audience, with each driving the other to greater heights. With Brighter Days and an overflowing tour schedule, the bond between Grey and his fans grows deeper and JJ Grey’s future looks brighter with each passing day.

**********

JJ GREY BIO

Born into a family with generations-old roots in rural Florida, JJ Grey was raised with a combination of backwoods wisdom and old-school blue-collar values. He heard music at barbeques and in local juke joints, all the while developing a deep love and respect for the land and its culture. Grey’s original songs are inspired by legendary musicians, including Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd, soul greats Otis Redding and Toots Hibbert, country stars George Jones and Jerry Reed, as well as by Grand Ole Opry comedian Jerry Clower. Whether it is a narrative passed down to him from his grandmother or the tribulations of a childhood friend, Grey’s ear for detail rings through in true storyteller fashion.

Debuting in 2001 with Blackwater, following up in 2004 with Lochloosa (both albums reissued by Alligator), Grey steadily built an intensely loyal following. In 2007 Grey released his Alligator debut, Country Ghetto, followed by 2008’s Orange Blossoms, further growing his already large audience. With the release of 2010’s Georgia Warhorse, Grey stepped further into the mainstream with the AAA radio breakout single The Sweetest Thing.

Grey, an avid outdoorsman, is a dedicated fisherman and surfer and holds an honorary position on the board of the Snook Foundation, dedicated to the protection of coastal fish and fish habitat. He has written passionately and articulately about his love for the untrammeled environment of his north Florida home.

After over a decade of hard touring and five studio albums Grey still spends eight months of the year on the road, bringing his music to his loyal, ever-growing, worldwide fan base, laying it all on the line with each and every performance. JJ has played countless festivals, including Bonnaroo, Wakarusa, Austin City Limits Festival, Byron Bay Blues Festival (Australia), Montreal Jazz Festival and Fuji Rock (Japan). Over the course of his career, Grey has shared stages with the likes of B.B. King, The Allman Brothers Band, The Black Crowes, Los Lobos, Jeff Beck, Ben Harper, Lenny Kravitz, Booker T. Jones, Mavis Staples and many others. In 2011 the band invaded the UK, leaving blissful fans and overwhelming praise in their wake. Also in 2011, Grey embarked on his first-ever solo tour, playing packed-to-capacity clubs, getting more personal and up close with his audience.

Grey’s songs have appeared in film and network and cable television programs including House, Flashpoint, Crash, Friday Night Lights, The Deadliest Catch and the film The Hoot. In November 2009, JJ wrote his first film score for the critically acclaimed, Emmy Award-winning documentary The Good Soldier that appeared in theatres and on Bill Moyers Journal on PBS. In 2010, Grey played piano, sang and contributed a song (The Wrong Side) to Buckwheat Zydeco’s Grammy-winning Alligator album Lay Your Burden Down.
Venue Information:
Terminal 5
610 W 56th St
New York, NY, 10019
http://www.terminal5nyc.com/