Galactic has sold out clubs in London, played “til dawn in Tokyo and toured every inch of the U.S., but the funky New Orleans group always knows when it”s time to come home.

Paul Wong
Galactic is all smiles because they are playing D-town this weekend.<br><br>Courtesy of Capricorn Records

“Mardi Gras has always been a huge holiday for the band,” said guitarist Jeff Raines. “A few years ago we”d do like six or seven shows over the course of five days, just trying to get in front of as many people as we could so that when we went back out on tour, people would be like, “Hey I saw you at Mardi Gras!””

The mass-exposure strategy has certainly paid off for the band, as the hard-groovin” sextet Raines, bassist Robert Mercurio, keyboardist Rich Vogel, drummer Stanton Moore, saxophonist Ben Ellman and vocalist Theryl de Clouet has grown since its 1994 inception as an after-hours favorite into arguably the hottest ticket in the music-rich Crescent City.

Incessant touring six Michigan shows in two-and-half years and three solid albums on the Capricorn label have led to increasingly enthusiastic fan attention outside of New Orleans, and now the band finds itself strutting onto the biggest stages of its young career as headliners of the SnoCore Icicle Ball Tour, which rolls into the State Theater in Detroit on Sunday night.

“(On this tour) we”ve been moving into the rooms that we”ve always wanted to play,” Raines said. “We”ve got about four weeks left it”s a six week national tour, which is something we”ve never done before, and it”s really been a great time.”

Raines said that a lot of the fun on the Icicle Ball Tour has come from sharing the stage every night with bass god Les Claypool of Primus, who”s been opening each show with his side project Fearless Flying Frog Brigade.

“We”ve been lucky enough to have him come up and play with us and wow, it”s an education for any bass player,” Raines said.

And what about Galactic”s own bassman Mercurio? How has he been dealing with the task of following Claypool every night?

“Robert”s been growing icicle balls,” Raines chuckled. “It”s a pretty appropriate tour, huh?”

The intraband jamming hasn”t been limited solely to Claypool, though: Each night of the Icicle Ball has found different members of the opening groups which includes Baltimore”s spacey jazz-funksters Lake Trout sitting in with Galactic for some heated improvisation. In fact, Frog Brigade saxophonist Skerik, who has toured with Galactic in the past, has provided some of the most spirited interplay.

“Some of the greatest moments of our gigs have come with (Skerik),” Raines said. “A lot of musicians who sit in kind of want to play their solo and get off, but Skerik really wants to play with the musicians in the band, and he tends to draw out stuff that maybe one of the guys wouldn”t play if he wasn”t around. He kind of eggs “em on.”

Open invitation to guest musicians is just one of the proud traditions of New Orleans that Galactic has taken to the masses. The rhythm section of Mercurio and uber-drummer Moore gives nod to the greasy grooves of funk pioneers the Meters, while aged-yet-smooth frontman de Clouet better known as the “Houseman” to all the ladies out there is a throwback to the old-school R&B of New Orleans” golden decades of the “50s and “60s.

By blending these classic sounds with a hip, rock-like energy, the group has exposed countless audiences to a new brand of super-heavy funk and the funk knows no boundaries, geographic, cultural or otherwise.

“We went to Japan for the first time about 12 months ago,” Raines said. “We played from midnight to 6:30 a.m. and the crowd was dancing and up and young, and it was really an eye-opener for us in terms of there being a scene for our kind of music in Tokyo.

“But I think that no matter where you are, if you”re having a good time and the music is clicking, I think any crowd in the world would be open to what you”re doing,” Raines said.

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