Sometimes the evening clouds part and the constellations appear. The Little Dipper bends toward the heavens, the Big Dipper makes eyes with the North Star, and the Seven Sisters gather and form a Kumbaya circle. It is at this time in your otherwise ordinary life on Earth that cosmic forces align and draw you in. So preach people who study astrology. And for one moment last month, I was a believer.
Check that; I was an astronaut.
A few days before, I took a break from work and checked my Facebook page. There, among the barrage of status updates, selfies, and sponsored ads, I came across this concert promotion posted by The Rhythm Foundation, a local organization that’s been hosting lively music performances in South Florida for over two decades.
Let me talk about a particular funk band — Galactic.
Since the late 1990s, this New Orleans quintet has displayed a flawless, other-worldly funk that never goes sour. Their sound is a gumbo that mixes a saucy southern soulful rhythm guitar, finger-lickin heavy Bayou bass lines, and skippety be-bopping percussive beats with a sprinkle of cowbell and a double dash of high-hats. And that’s just the instrumental jams. When they invite rappers to lend vocals, add one part old-school-hip-hop to that gumbo, dropping verses on the hard street life of the Big Easy.
This is head-bobbing music, back and forth, back and forth. If Rush concerts are ground zero for air drummers, then a Galactic concert is ground zero for head bobbers.
On two occasions I had a chance to watch Galactic perform. The first time was at New Orleans’ Voodoo Music Festival in 2010 and the second time was at last year’s Sunshine Music & Blues Festival at Mizner Park in Boca Raton, and both times I was regretfully too inebriated so I missed my chance to acquire a proper appreciation for their live gigs.
So when my Facebook page brought me this news of a free Galactic concert on a Friday night, I stared at that astronaut on my computer screen for while. But then it hit me, that sonic boom of resistance and left-brain logic speaking to me from a voice closer to home listing all of the why-nots:
- Friday night.
- Rush hour.
- Saturday soccer matches.
- Saturday chores.
So I shrugged, passed the cursor over the thumbs-up symbol, and settled for adding my “like” to the photo.
Reason prevailed and I forgot about the whole thing. I went back to work.
On Friday morning, on my way to the office, my wife calls me. Bad news, she says. The check-engine light is on in my car.
I immediately called our go-to mechanic shop and informed them. They said I could bring the car Friday night and drop the keys off through one of the bay door slips.
That evening after our kids’ soccer practice, we piled into both of our cars. I had one of my kids with me, while my wife tailed behind with our other son. We made plans by cellphone to have dinner near the mechanic’s shop. We knew of a few family friendly restaurants in that area. As we drove towards the traffic heading north on Interstate-95, it hit me, this idea, like a comet crashing into the frontal lobe of my brain:
Honey, the mechanic is around the corner from Hollywood ArtsPark.
Let’s go see Galactic.
This time the wave of resistance was no match for the cosmic forces. We had no choice but to acquiesce to the forces and the planets and the moon.
Thirty five minutes later, we were at Fillmore Street and 24th Avenue, in Hollywood, Florida, dropping off the VW keys with the last mechanic there.
Then we directed my car towards ArtsPark to search for a parking space amid the crowded street corners and distant music from the opening band (Monophonics). We found a spot on a side road, crossed a few streets, and entered a Friday night of neon and tie dye and bearded men in flannel shirts while the first band wrapped up their set.
We snacked on hot dogs and chips.
We killed time. We waited.
Suddenly, the bright lights dimmed to space-age blues and pink. Galactic arrived and got rolling. We side-stepped the crowd and found an ideal spot near the corner of the stage. I took turns putting my kids on my shoulders where they could see the band up close through the clouds of smoke and clusters of neon, along with other miniature people secured to the shoulders of their own dads.
When trombone player Corey Henry grabbed the mike and rapped to the crowd, hands went up and waved back and forth with the beat. When the band introduced vocalist Erica Falls, we were transported light years away.
That night we bobbed our heads.
That night we were astronauts.
And when the night ended and our mission was complete, we returned home safely.
Here’s a track from Galactic’s 2007 From the Corner to the Block:
 Speaking of head-bobbing: Toy bobble heads are reported to date back to around the 1840s and are based on a character from a Russian-penned short story that was described to have a neck that resembled “the neck of plaster cats which wag their heads”?
 Why does Facebook only permit a thumbs-up option to express your feelings about a post? What about the fist-pump or the high-five? I believe those have earned a spot on our menu of digital expressions, Facebook. And while you’re at it, so have the thumbs-down, the middle finger, and the double middle finger.
Copyright © 2015 Long Play Miami
I can say without any hesitation that The Police held the distinct honor of being my favorite rock group when I was a kid. A poster of Sting, Andy and Stewart was tacked on my bedroom wall throughout most of the 80s. I bought myself a bass guitar at Carroll Music on Bird Road simply to learn the bass line from Roxanne, one of the greatest songs about a street-walker ever composed. Then MTV enabled audio and visual to come together in the form of music videos and by 1983, The Police’s Every Breath You Take, King of Pain, and Synchronicity II became must-see TV.
The 80s rocked.
My introduction to The Police was GHOST IN THE MACHINE (1981) and specifically the edgy rock-reggae Spirits in the Material World. Two years later, they released SYNCHRONICITY (1983) which cemented them as kings of my rock spectrum and a place on my bedroom wall of fame. And then I got my hands on OUTLANDOS D’AMOUR (1978), the band’s debut album which featured them in their most primitive ska-punkishness; it remains in the rotation on the home vinyl playlist.
The Police had a short life together: about six years (1977-83). In that time, they released 5 albums, each of them loaded with memorable songs. They could have ruled the rock world for years but following SYNCHRONICITY, egos collided and the band split, leaving millions of fans wondering, what now?
Sting went on to a successful solo career in the 1990s but regretful film-acting ventures (Dune, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen). Guitarist Andy Summers stayed active in the music scene but maintained a low profile. His work gravitated more towards jazz. Drummer Stewart Copeland shifted to composing scores and soundtracks for dozens of films and TV shows. He was nominated for a Golden Globe for writing the score for the Francis Ford Coppola film, Rumblefish.
Then in 2007, following a surprise reunion performance at the Grammys, Sting agreed to reunite with his former bandmates for a worldwide reunion tour. And Miami was fortunate to host the trio on July 10, 2007 at the most accommodating open-air venue in South Florida – Dolphin Stadium. My wife (about 4 months pregnant at the time with our second child) and I stood and swayed and sang all night on the center floor about 20 rows from the stage. The band was in sync throughout the show and they displayed genuine affection and enjoyment playing together on tour since 1984!
Damn long time to wait but hell,… when the world is running down, you make the best of what’s still around.
Here is their amazing setlist from that July evening in Miami:
1. Message in a Bottle
2. Synchronicity II
3. Walking on the Moon
4. Voices Inside My Head
5. When the World Is Running Down
6. Don’t Stand So Close to Me
7. Driven to Tears
8. Truth Hits Everybody
9. The Bed’s Too Big Without You
10. Every Little Thing She Does is Magic
11. Wrapped Around Your Finger
12. De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
13. Invisible Sun
14. Walking in Your Footsteps
15. Can’t Stand Losing You
16. Reggatta de Blanc
18. King of Pain
19. So Lonely
20. Every Breath You Take
21. Next to You