We had a wild day last Thursday at the office. We’re filming video segments around town for an upcoming “Kingsport On The Move” feature and I had two appointments and a podcast to do with father and son Rich and Rick Wagner for Buzzcutz #5. The day was full, but it was not over the top yet. That happened in Asheville later in the night – the company was great and the sushi and duck went well with hip-hop music and Galactic funk at the Orange Peel.

Vanessa Pearson Bentley had never been to the Orange Peel just over the mountains in North Carolina. Jared and Vanessa got married on my birthday in September and I had yet to treat them to dinner and wanted to celebrate with some sort of wedding gift. Jared had turned me on to the Louisiana-based Galactic while playing with Clear and when I saw them on the schedule in North Carolina, we made plans to top off a Thursday with a road trip to Asheville.

Jared was driving tonight and I met up with them both at the One Stop in Johnson City and enjoyed a new Chinese import in the back seat. It was dark by now and sitting in the middle of the black Yukon, I realized fate must have brought this together. Several years ago, when I first heard both of these performers and their gift of song, I was eager to meet them. Now I’m in the middle of both on the way to Asheville. Chalk another episode up for the synchronicity channel.

We arrived in Asheville a little early and it didn’t take too long to find a spot in the public parking lot. One of the great things about Asheville is the pulse. Even though it was a Thursday night, the town was alive with lots of people walking up and down the streets on restaurant square. I homeless man startled me with a loud, “I don’t dance anymore!” Still haven’t figured out the kharmic sense to that comment yet.

A short distance up Haywood, we stopped into Noi’s Thai Kitchen. This small streetside restaurant is bright and clean and seats perhaps 50 people in a narrow corridor that wraps around the sushi bar. Our service was immediately attentive and the menu was surprisingly different. We ordered a couple of Sapparos, sushi and I opted for Crispy Duck. All of the food was completely satisfying and at $60, I feel we had a great dish and would try this again.

Galactic Ticket

The doors of the Orange Peel opened at 8.00 and we had no trouble getting into the venue when we arrived close to nine. It wasn’t long before the lights dimmed and the opening act Lifesavers introduced the show. This hip-hop band from Portland Oregon has been on tour with Galactic for the past few months. Their set was a bit boomy for the room, but the trio was slick, tight and were the perfect primer for Galactic.

I guess the band started sometime after 10.00 and came out hitting the room hard with a reeling blend of jazz, funk and hip-hop. I remarked later that we didn’t hear a single ballad and it a way that was refreshing. I’m pretty sure I didn’t see a yawn all night long.

You could say that I’m a new Galactic fan. The band has appeared at all kinds of jam festivals and feature a scorching rhythm section (Drumer Stanton Moore and Bassist Robert Mercurio) doused with the fury of a great keyboardist (Rich Vogel) and versatile instrumentalist, Ben Ellman who plays a variety of saxophones including a baritone sax (gotta love that honker) and a harmonica.

The band’s music is often described as “jazz-rock-fusion” and it’s crafted with a cutting-edge precision that caught my attention with their funky riffs and memorable lines. Galactic has a hard core funk foundation that is whacked out by Moore and Mercurio. Ellman and Vogel steal most of the show with their solos and vintage keyboard work, but the guitars left me desiring a little more distinction.

Galactic is an instrumental band and a lot of people might find it tedious (I certainly wouldn’t), but their new disc ‘From the Corner to the Block’ is a brilliant blend of jazz funk fusion layered with a polished hip-hop element. Galactic switched from an instrumental band, playing two sticky hot funk songs and would bring out one of two hip-hop performers including Mr. Lif and Boots Riley of The Coup.

I’m not gonna act like I know anything about Hip-Hop and Galactic didn’t have a record player on stage, but the mix of hard core jazz funk and this form of street music made for a great evening of head bouncing fans. There’s a good chance their recipe on this tour is attracting plenty of new fans too. Although I was up front near the edge of the stage for the first part of the concert, we spent the last part of their seat from the back in a sea of wide-eyed 20-somethings that seemed to be ready to keep it rolling all night long.

Well, there’s another ticket stub to add to the wall and the third or fourth show this year at the Orange Peel. We left the room about midnight and made our way back to the Tri-Cities. Unfortunately, Jared’s rear-end (the Yukon) was howling all the way home and we were all a bit nervous as to whether we would make it back over the mountain, but fate had us safe and we survive another day to tell this tale.

Great show Galactic. Keep up the good work and can’t wait to see where the band goes next.