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Thursday, January 23

Galactic with Maggie Koerner - January 15, 2014 -Vinyl Music Hall - Pensacola, FL

A lot of touring bands promise a different show every night; and they pretty much deliver. None, however, have done this in the way New Orleans based Galactic has. For the last several years, the band has been operating without a dedicated lead vocalist. That’s OK, though. Their jams are as tight as a preacher’s tie on Sunday morning. This isn't to say they’re completely an instrumental group these days; far from it, in fact. Tour after tour, the guys of Galactic hook themselves up with accomplished and up-and-coming vocalists, often showcasing other New Orleans area talent.
Coming off of Jam Cruise, Galactic began their 2014 season at Vinyl Music Hall in Pensacola, Florida. This time around, the singer in tow is Maggie Koerner. Maggie hails from Shreveport, Louisiana, but currently calls New Orleans home. 
After two instrumentals, “Cineramascope” featuring a great back and forth of horns and the oh-so-funky “Balkan Wedding,”  and the beginning of one of the best small-stage light shows I’ve ever seen, Maggie came to the stage. Though she looked surprisingly like Billie Piper (Doctor Who), it only took a couple of notes of “Hey Na Na” to realize she was no Rose Tyler. In my notes I wrote, “What the f**k?! This chick is on fire vocally.” And I meant it. Next up was “He calls Me Momma,” a gritty and soulful song. This was one of Maggie’s strongest showings of the night. She reached inside herself and put everything on the stage--then she reached inside every member of the audience and put our guts on the floor. When we couldn’t take it anymore, out came “Dolla Diva,” and we danced like we didn’t give a funk.
Fortunately, after “Diva” we had an opportunity to come back to earth with a very cool jam called “Tornado.” For the next song, “Bongo Joe,” opening act Brushy One String returned to the stage. His warm voice and thick Jamaican accent made this song more authentic and fun. 
“Quitters Never Win” brought Maggie back to the mic to remind us that, not only do the quitters never win, but also the winners never quit. Before the next song we were told “You know the words, so sing along.” The first few notes of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” were like an adrenaline injection. “Daddy’s Song,” written by the Revivalists’ David Shaw came next. Don’t let the song title fool you, this ain’t no sleepy-time lullaby. This song has a driving groove that’ll carry a load across state lines wearing sunglasses and a fedora. Big finish.
Two instrumentals, “Chicken Box” yum, and “Shibuya” kept us going all the way into “It’s A Man’s World” and the soulful, horn-heavy “Like A Feather.” One of my favorite songs came next, “Heart of Steel.” There are so many “shoulda known better” moments, but it’s good to know “it don’t mean a damn thing.” The show ender, “Ooh Nah Nay” gave some of the best trombone/bass/drum solo action to ever shake Vinyl Music Hall. 

The encore was all-out. “Does It Really Make A Difference” feels like an encore song. It’s uplifting and soulful and would have left everyone feeling like they’d accomplished something that evening. But Galactic wasn’t done with us yet. The last song, a gut-wrenching cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” chewed us up and left us spent. Well played, Galactic, well played. 


Galactic is Ben Ellman, harps and horns; Robert Mercurio, bass; Stanton Moore, drums and percussion; Jeff Raines, guitar and Rich Vogel, keyboards.
Words: Dan Fugate
Photos: Jake Kreulen
 ©Grateful Music LLC