UNIVERSAL APPEAL GALACTIC PROVIDES COOL JAZZ WITH A FUNKY KICK.
Galactic has been called an acid jazz quartet, a rock 'n' roll outfit and a soul act.
``I just say we're a New Orleans funk band,'' says Rich Vogel, Galactic's keyboardist.
Throw into the mix a jam band, and that in a nutshell sums up the music of Galactic, whose members were brought together by a love of such feel-good grooves. This music has increasingly become popular with the thousands of 20-somethings who flock to clubs all across the country just to see the band play.
The grass-roots following has earned the New Orleans-based band a headlining spot on this year's SnoCore ``Icicle Ball'' tour, which pulls into the Palace on Thursday.
``Galactic is a touring phenomenon,'' says John Boyle, SnoCore's tour producer and co-owner. But Vogel sees it more as people simply stumbling onto a sound that's different.
It happened to him while growing up in Omaha, Neb.
Thanks to his older siblings' record collections and a concerned classical music teacher, Vogel got the jazz education of a lifetime.
Of course, it first started out with your basic Midwestern class rock upbringing.
``One of my first big musical experiences was listening to my brother's 'Led Zeppelin IV' record and pounding on the couch with a pair of drumsticks that I got with a toy drum,'' says Vogel. ``Then my brother got into jazz and fusion as he got older, so I followed.''
Vogel laughs, recalling a story his mother tells of him turning off the TV while people were watching so he could put on a record.
Seeing how he was drawn to music, Vogel's mother signed him up for piano lessons with a classical music teacher. But he didn't take to the classical repertoire.
``Rather than give up on me, my teacher suggested that my mom take me to a jazz piano teacher she knew,'' he says. ``She thought I might do more with him than I had with her.''
Vogel describes his jazz piano teacher as a musician extraordinaire who taught him chord structure, basic theory about blues progressions and how to read music so he could join the high school jazz band.
He also gave Vogel ``some really cool'' records, including Herbie Hancock's ``Headhunters.''
``Herbie hooked up a lot of jazz and funk for me,'' says Vogel. ``He bridged that gap.
``I got into American music in a deeper way beyond just white-bread rock,'' he says. ``Not that there's anything wrong with white-bread rock, because some of it I still love. To this day, I think Led Zeppelin was a fantastic band.''
Ironically it was listening to Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham that inspired Vogel to seek out artists on Motown and Stax recordings.
``John Bonham played funky with Led Zeppelin,'' says Vogel. ``It was just cranked up really loud, and because they were long-haired dudes from England, it was considered rock 'n' roll.
``But a lot of the beats - and his approach - was taken from black American music,'' he says. ``So I started to get wind of that to where I was like, 'Oh, there's so much more than what you hear on your local rock station.' ''
All of the members in the band had similar experiences given their regional and cultural variations. Guitarist Jeff Raines and bassist Robert Mercurio, both from Washington, D.C., discovered jazz and funk after punk. Same with sax man Ben Ellman, from L.A.
Stanton Moore, who grew up in New Orleans, was a fixture of many punk and hard-rock bands. But the sound of Mardi Gras was always in the background.
Probably the only member of the band who didn't make the transition is the New Orleans-born veteran soul singer Theryl ``The Houseman'' deClouet.
At 50, he divides his time between performing with Galactic, gigging around New Orleans and a working on his budding solo career. His debut album, ``The Houseman Cometh,'' on Bullseye Blues and Jazz Records was released Tuesday.
The members are all active in the writing process, resulting in the band's infectious sound so popular with the college crowd.
``Let's face it: There's different levels of music appreciation in our society,'' says Vogel. ``Some people are just more prone to look a little harder, dig a little deeper for the things that aren't necessarily shoved down their throats or readily available.
``Personally, I think that real live music played with some care and enthusiasm can feel good. Especially if it's rooted in a good groove.''
SNOCORE ICICLE BALL WITH GALACTIC, LES CLAYPOOL'S FROG BRIGADE, LAKE TROUT, DRUMS AND TUBA
Where: Palace, 1735 N. Vine St., Hollywood.
When: 7 p.m. Thursday.
Tickets: $25. Call (213) 480-3232.
Throwing snow in your eyes
SnoCore isn't the Warped Tour on skis. Nor are there any sports demonstrations or hedonistic sideshow attractions like you might find at tours in the summer.
This is an all rock 'n' roll festival that heads out in the dead of winter - hence the name, SnoCore.
``It's not a whole heck of a lot more than that,'' says John Boyle, the tour's co-producer and part owner. ``And we don't really try to pretend to be.''
SnoCore was founded six years ago as an excuse for bands to perform for mountain resort towns, and then go snowboarding. It has since become a cross-country touring machine featuring big-name acts such as Everclear, Sublime and Blink-182.
While this year is no exception, Boyle and Co. have devised not one, but two simultaneous SnoCore tours for different music fans.
For the jam band crowd, there's the SnoCore ``Icicle Ball.'' It features Galactic, Les Claypool's Frog Brigade, Lake Trout, and Drums and Tuba.
SnoCore ``Rock,'' on the other hand, is an aggressively different tour.
Coming Jan. 20 to the Hollywood Palladium, it stars hard rockers Fear Factory, the school girl metal outfit Kittie, and aggro-rockers Slaves on Dope and the Union Underground.
The concert starts at 5 p.m. Tickets are $22.50, and available at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling (213) 480-3232.
- Sandra Barrera
The jazz/funk/rock band Galactic performs at the Palace in Hollywood on Thursday night.
Box: Throwing snow in your eyes (see text)