‘Our lives, our home, our musical community’ An interview with Jeff Raines of Galactic

facebook.com/Galacticfunk / David Lee

Before kicking off the West coast leg of Galactic‘s latest tour guitarist Jeff Raines shed some light on what it’s like to have been “touched by Treme.”

Joe Duepner: Hey how’s it going?

Jeff Raines: Good, we’re home for about a week here. A little break between the East and the West. As you know St. Louis is the Gateway to the West so we’ll be starting there on Wednesday. Go out through the mountain states and then the rest of the coast.

How was Mardi Gras this year?

Mardi Gras was the kick-off of our tour. We released our new record “Carnivale Electricos” the day of Mardi Gras actually.

“Carnivale Electricos” is Brazillian themed. Have you guys ever been down to Carnival in Brazil?

No. As much as we would love to have done first-hand research for the record we did not make it down there. There’s the distance and time and you have to wait for the carnival to come by so logistically lining those all up can be difficult. So we drew upon our deep knowledge of New Orleans Mardi Gras and we got the Brazilian carnival side vicariously through the guest artists and friends here in New Orleans. Friends like Casa Samba and Al “Carnival Time” Johnson.

The one time we had a gig in Brazil it didn’t work out. After playing our show in Argentina we all gathered in the lobby of our hotel and piled into a shuttle van. Somewhere along the ride from the hotel to the airport Stan realized his backpack was missing. Of course in his backpack was his passport and his work visa. So there went Brazil. So that’s why to this day we’ve never performed in Brazil. That was a bad day.

How do you feel about the way the HBO show “Treme” depicts the current New Orleans music scene?

It’s good, it’s the best thing anyone’s ever made about New Orleans in television or film. Hands down. Anything that’s been made prior has been cheesy and silly. “Treme” has broken that losing streak. David Simon knows what he’s doing and he’s made a great show about New Orleans. It’s as close as you can get on television.

Do you have any character you especially relate to on the show?

Well you know the trombone player. We always laugh about him. We’re usually watching it on the bus with Corey “Bo Money” Henry, who’s a trombone player from the sixth ward, from the Treme, played in all kinds of bands. We’re always laughing at him like “That’s you bro, they’re telling your story on HBO.” We have an expression down here “touched by Treme.” You know, it’s our lives, our home, our musical community. For us it’s kind of a strange blending of the real world and the television world.

If you had to recommend where to eat in New Orleans, what would you choose?

Oh man there’s so much food. It’s so hard to pick. One of the things that I love that is not a quintessential staple is some of the Vietnamese food. There’s nothing like a Vietnamese poorboy. It’s a Vietnamese New Orleans thing. And the french bread it comes on, you can only get the best french bread in New Orleans and France. It makes the sandwich so much better.

88.1 KDHX welcomes Galactic to the Pageant on March 14.

Concert review: Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears tear up Off Broadway, Wednesday, February 15

Nate Burrell

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears returned to a packed Off Broadway last night for a KDHX-welcomed show full of heavy riffs and funky grooves.

Austin-raised frontman Joe Lewis commanded the stage in a black leather jacket, sipping from a bottle of High Life between songs and wailing on his dazzling red guitar.

I leaned over and asked my friend, “What kind of guitar is that? A Telecaster?”
A stranger, who was uncomfortably close-by and also leather clad, quickly cut in: “That’s a one-of-a-kind,” he said. “He’s got a P-90 pickup on there with a custom fret board.”

I raised an eyebrow. How did he know so much about Joe Lewis’ git-box?

“I work at Guitar Center.” He pointed to the stage: “And I’ve seen him at least five times.”

I felt like a newbie. It was my first time seeing Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, despite their visit to St. Louis last year and consistent critical praise following appearances at South By Southwest.

I prepared for Wednesday night’s show by visiting the Lost Highway Records website and listening to “Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is!” (the group’s first LP) several times. I was instantly hooked on its garage-soul sound.

So, when Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears played the album’s first track, “Gunpowder,” I was in happily familiar territory. Joe Lewis’ vocals, along with sharp horns and chugging rhythm, brought to mind a Wilson Picket gone punk.

“Any Stooges fans?” Lewis asked before playing a cover of “I Got a Right” that showed just how congruent the heavy-distortion fueled, ’70s-era sound was with his own. Another cover, of the Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird,” delighted the crowd during the band’s early yet extended encore.

The biggest cheers, however, erupted during and after “Livin’ in the Jungle,” from the band’s latest album, “Scandalous.” With a chunky rhythm guitar and the bold sound of a three-piece horn section (alto, baritone sax and trumpet) backing up Lewis, the crowd reaction was certainly deserved. (I also find it interesting that the song is called “Livin’ in the Jungle,” yet the lyrics say “Welcome To The Jungle…” To avoid the wrath of Axl Rose’s lawyers, perhaps?)

A couple other new tracks made the set, notably the bombastic “Booty City” and the delightfully bass-heavy “Black Snake.” Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears have an arsenal of memorable tunes, and they were quick on the draw Wednesday night. Left out of the night’s lineup, however, was “Mustang Ranch,” from “Scandalous,” a song that pairs well with its weird and amusing cartoon music video.

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears are steadily on the rise, and there is little doubt they will continue to play for full houses as they did on Wednesday. Now I’m finally in the club: one of the many fans who have seen the group’s explosive live performance. I also will be one of the many fans who pack in to see them again.

Concert review: JJ Grey & Mofro (with JC Brooks) fill the Pageant with warm southern soul and blues, Friday, January 13

mofrofans.com / You Can Call Me Clay

The temps may have been well below freezing outside, but things were hot inside the Pageant last night as Jacksonville, Fla. native JJ Grey and his band Mofro infused the packed venue with their special brand of swampy, southern blues rock.

The band was recently nominated for Canada’s top blues award — the B.B. King International Artist of the Year Award. The winner will be announced on Monday at the 15th Annual Maple Blues Awards in Toronto. They also recently released their first live CD/DVD set, “Brighter Days,” available on their website.

The party atmosphere kicked into gear as the opener, Chicago soul outfit J.C. Brooks and the Uptown Sound, took to the stage, fresh off the air from an in-studio performance on KDHX show Gold Soundz. The leader of this throwback band, Brooks, strode out looking like a cross between James Brown and Little Richard in a black suit and white shirt with a red kerchief and a piled high Jheri curl. With elements of classic ’60s soul and ’70s disco with a post-punk sensibility, the band manages to bring a fresh, new sound while paying homage to its roots. They performed a number of originals as well as some cool covers, including “Tainted Love” and an up-tempo, funky version of Wilco’s “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.” Throughout their set, Brooks delighted the crowd with his smooth dance moves, gliding and shaking across the stage.

The floor was filled with fans eager to dance as JJ Grey & Mofro began their set, Grey smiling broadly and growling — in his signature, soul-filled voice — the lyrics to “War,” as organist Anthony Farrell’s fingers tore across the keys like a hurricane. Mofro is one tight band, including the amazing Andrew Trube on electric and lap steel guitar, bassist Todd Smallie (a St. Louis native), drummer Anthony Cole and two-piece horn section featuring trumpeter Dennis Marion and saxophonist Art Edmaiston.

The audience sang along with the chorus to the groovy “Air,” from the band’s first album “Blackwater” (when they were known simply as Mofro). Introducing fan favorite “Brighter Days,” Grey took a moment to reflect, talking about how he wrote the song when things didn’t seem so bright and explaining how songs change their meanings through the years. Now in a happier place, he uses it as a reminder of when they weren’t.

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Concert review and set list: Nashville soul shines with DeRobert & the Half-Truths and Magic in Threes at 2720 Cherokee, Saturday, December 17

DeRobert & the Half-Truths at 2720 Cherokee, December 17, 2011

Francisco Fisher

“Play more soul!” fans chanted, hoping for a fix of a DeRobert & the Half-Truths encore.

The set had already covered 26 high-energy songs, but it wasn’t quite over for the funk-and-soul fiends who converged on 2720′s Loyal Funk and Soul Revue. What had them riled up was a double dose of Nashville’s G.E.D Soul Records including the Half Truths’ alter-ego, Magic in Threes, which opened the night with an instrumental sound showcasing flute and keys.

Drummer Nick DeVan called Magic in Threes “sit down music,” though it had several first-comers on their feet and grooving nonetheless.

Earlier that afternoon, DeRobert & the Half-Truths performed an in-store at Euclid Records to a small yet energized crowd. DeRobert, known as “Dee,” showcased his monumental range and power in soulful tracks including “I Swear I’m Not a Fool” and “Write a Letter” (both of which were played for the encore that night). His band mates wore matching Puma track jackets while exhibiting flawless attention to dynamics in order for the horns, guitars and drums to complement perfectly Dee’s vocals both in the record store and in a much larger venue later on.

While Dee’s singing voice remained crisp and unwavering, his speaking voice revealed itself to be hoarse and tired, perhaps from a late night and long drive. The frog in his throat is only noteworthy because it in no way whatsoever hindered the singer from belting out falsettos and his characteristic “whoa-ohs” with unrestrained energy (from the diaphragm, as you singers well know). Large beads of sweat fell from his face, yet Dee kept on a scarf and the same worn-in baseball cap he had during the group’s first visit to St. Louis in a much warmer July.

Speaking of fashion, the upstairs of 2720 was abuzz early in the evening with a runway show that featured electronic music and serious-looking models. If only there had been a live audio feed from the stage below where the retro aesthetic of Magic in Threes could have given several high-wasted garments (which I guess are coming back) a proper soundtrack.

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Concert review: Fishbone rocks the Firebird with funky ska-punk fun, Wednesday, December 7

flickr.com/photos/alterna2/2434521507

Having been together in one form or another for over 30 years, it’s amazing that Fishbone is still bringing high-energy, genre-bending funk/punk/rock/ska as hard as they were in their late ‘80s heyday.

But they are, minus some original members with new ones filling in. The founding core remains with frontman extraordinaire Angelo Moore and bassist/vocalist Norwood Fisher.

Wednesday’s show at the Firebird started with the straight up ska of Dread Not followed by Downtown Brown. The latter mix hardcore screaming with metal guitars and ska horns. Cacophonous? Sure, but funny as hell when lead singer Neil P. repeatedly screams, “I learned one thing from watching television. Ice loves Coco!”

Fishbone stormed the stage with 1991′s “Everyday Sunshine.” With Fisher’s burbling bass line paired with his equally low vocal harmonies, they replaced the ska vibe of the original with a timeless funk groove. Moore’s voice is richer than it used to be, but stronger, despite rumors in the crowd that he has been under the weather. Clad in a powder blue pinstripe tux complete with prom ruffles, he wasted no time jumping into the dense crowd, who knew exactly how to pass him around over their heads.

“I feel like I’m at Mississippi Nights,” he said before “Ma and Pa.” The audience didn’t hesitate to partake in the crowd surfing, sucked into the frenetic Fishbone energy that just doesn’t come through in recordings. Melodies and nuances may have been lost on the tight horn blasts and sharp, fast rhythm, but what they lacked in subtlety they make up for in pure, crazed energy that continued into their guitar-heavy cover of Sublime’s “Date Rape.” By the end Fisher led the audience in a two-part chant of “I’m about to act… a mother fucking fool.”

The band paused to mark drummer John Steward’s birthday with the traditional birthday song and a round of shots and a pack of women from the audience coming onstage to dance during an extended opening to “Bonin’ in the Boneyard.” Gradually, the stage filled with more audience members who climb up to dance and stage dive.

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Concert review: The Bo-Keys dazzle at the Gramophone, Sunday, October 23

Jacob Blickenstaff

“You made a wise choice to come and see the Bo-Keys, guaranteed,” Charles “Skip” Pitts told a gathering at the Gramophone Sunday night. He proved to be right.

Pitts is guitarist and singer for the Memphis-based Bo-Keys. He has a deep, prickly voice and has made music history, if not only for contributing the wah-wah part in Isaac Hayes’ “Shaft,” but also for his work with the Isley Brothers and Wilson Pickett. With a Stratocaster in hand and a set of pedals at his feet, Pitts joined the Bo-Keys and kicked off a compact hour of both individual and group talent.

Gospel veteran Percy Wiggins joined the stage after a few instrumentals to perform his ’60s single, “Can’t Find Nobody (To Take Your Place).” Wiggins lends his sturdy vocals to the Bo-Keys’ recordings and did not disappoint during Sunday’s live performance. During a cover of the Bar-Kays’ “Soul Finger,” in which the band was in great form, Wiggins moved to the side of the stage. He leaned over, wearing a suit and tie, and happily shouted the title lyrics into a nearby microphone.

Ben Cauley (founding Bar-Kays member and Bo-Keys’ trumpet player) was not there, though new-schooler Marc Franklin did an exceptional job nailing the dizzying trumpet part in “Soul Finger,” as well as the remainder of the performance. Kirk Smothers provided a confident saxophone to round out the horn section.

Drummer Howard Grimes showcased his solid percussive style. He has a history in the Hi Rhythm Section, an ensemble that recorded with artists such as Al Green and Ann Peebles in the ’70s.

Scott Bomar, who brought the Bo-Keys together more than a decade ago under the Electraphonic label, played bass and chatted up the small audience by saying, “We’re going to take you a little farther down [Route] 55,” before introducing the instrumental “Jack and Ginger” from their latest album, “Got To Get Back!”

During “Jack and Ginger,” keyboardist Curtis Turner started out smooth on the electric organ and played with a style akin to the Memphis-based Booker T. Jones. But the comparison faded as Turner, a large man, stood up and cradled the Nord keyboard in his arms to play a scorching solo that was extraordinary to both see and hear.

A few people came close to the stage, but many were caught off guard by a lone dancer wearing black pants and a tie — he danced intensely (spinning and leaping) during the entire set, pausing only to sip from a plastic cup of water that he placed onstage. Both Pitts and Wiggins were gracious and asked the crowd give him a round of applause for his energy. The dancer hurt his back during the end of the set, which fortunately for him was only an hour. But it was a compact hour that included brilliant covers such as “Catch That Teardrop” as well as the popular original, “Got To Get Back (To My Baby),” with Wiggins on vocals.

For those who didn’t make it, an archive of the Bo-Key’s performance is available on the Gramophone’s website along with a performance by the Rhythm Section Road Show that took place earlier in the night. Andy Coco of KDHX’s Rhythm Section joined a handful of talented musicians including guitarist Teddy Presberg for a set that impressed members of the Bo-Keys and further encouraged them to play their hearts out.

Concert review and setlist: Here Come the Mummies reanimates the Pageant, Saturday, October 22

Here Come the Mummies

facebook.com/herecomethemummies

The members of Here Come the Mummies may be dead, but their wall-shaking funky jams showed that the crowd was definitely alive at the Pageant Saturday night.

Show Me Burlesque provided a fantastic opening for the evening. The head honcho of the troupe, Lola Van Ella, pulled double duty as emcee and performed a playful song and dance routine as the first act, followed by Gogo McGregor and her sultry fan dance, Tessa Von Twinkle’s fun routine and finally Gravity Plays Favorites finished up with an impressive aerial pole dance.

The Show Me Burlesque set was a great glimpse into the past, where vaudeville and burlesque acts were the center of American theater. All four acts in the set were striptease performances done in a tasteful and artistic way and set the perfect mood for the bawdy innuendo of Here Come the Mummies.

Marching in from the Suite 101 entrance and winding their way through the crowd in a drum procession immediately before taking the stage, the nine members of Here Come the Mummies had the crowd on their feet and moving before the first song began. From the first few notes of “Believe (In Things You Cannot See)” it was obvious that despite the costumes this group was not just leaning on a gimmick; these boys had real chops.

The horn section was tighter than the cloth they were wrapped in and the rhythm section could not have been more in sync if they’d tried. Trumpeter Oozie Mummy, guitarist Mummy Cass and percussionist Java handled lead vocals, each one lending his distinct voice to various songs. Their harmonizing was stellar, especially the high notes coming out of Oozie’s mouth. I have to single Rah out as my favorite mummy. The honking and wailing coming out of his sax was spine-tingling and every solo he played was better than the last.

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Concert review: L.A.-based Master Blazter closes day 2 of Lola STL Music Fest with a bang, Friday, October 7

Dam-Funk at Lola, October 7, 2011

Francisco Fisher

Led by Dam-Funk, Master Blazter used vintage synthesizers and live drums to deliver a mind-blowing batch of boogie funk at the first annual Lola STL festival.

Dam (pronounced dame) Funk wasn’t wearing his sunglasses, and so the set hadn’t quite begun. Yet the warm-up prompted the crowd to dance and shout with excitement. “Sound checkin’ y’all,” Funk sang to the audience. “I wanna get down with you.”

Once the shades were on, Funk joined J1, on drums, and Computer Jay, on accompanying synth, for a pumped-up rendition of the Zapp & Roger classic, “More Bounce to the Ounce.” The analog Roland Alpha Juno that Funk used produced an unmistakable sound that screamed old school, as did the keytar (yes, keytar) that made an appearance later in the performance.

The set continued with Dam-Funk’s brand of new-school funk that incorporated elements that cover decades of music and conjured a West-Coast vibe that made listeners feel as if they were cruising in a convertible or sipping champagne in a Jacuzzi.

“I want you to look in the mirror, and say you aren’t going to give up,” Funk said before playing “Mirrors,” a chilled-out track built on stuttering synth and machine claps. The vocals accentuated the warm sound and were reminiscent of Michael Jackson in their punctuated delivery and strength.

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