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Galactic, Big Freedia bring the Big Easy to the El Rey

March 5, 2010 |  1:15 pm


Bayou party band Galactic rolled into Mid-Wilshire on Thursday night, and those in a packed house who were looking for the group's signature mix of supercharged second-line jazz and rowdy funk did not leave disappointed.

Joined at various times by the Rebirth Brass Band's Corey Henry on trombone and the Neville Brothers' Cyril Neville on percussion, the band showcased a grittier edge that only grew as the night went on with highlights like Henry's raucous cover of the hip-hop standard "La-De-Da-Di" and the devilish psych-jam "Garbage Truck," which sounded a little like what would happen if Blue Cheer crashed jazz fest.

But it's Big Freedia, the transvestite star of New Orleans' underground "bounce" scene and guest on Galactic's recent album "Ya-Ka-May," who may have left the greatest impression. Dressed in all white with a Little Richard curl and joined by two manic dancers who defied hip-hop's usual physical convention, Freedia took the El Rey to a sweatier, bawdier side of the city. 

The thunderous beats and rapid-fire rhymes weren't exactly sophisticated, but something in the boundless energy and sass gave the music an almost surreal sense of fun that felt utterly "of New Orleans." Much of the crowd was quickly won over, and they're not alone: Freedia was recently interviewed in the Fader and performed the night before at El Cid in a show co-presented by the underground-courting FYF Fest.

Right down the "who dey" chants left over from the city's still-lingering Super Bowl high, it was as if Galactic brought New Orleans right along with it, something that's always seemed its goal with every tour stop but only now seems fully realized.

Video of Big Freedia and Galactic in action after the jump.

-- Chris Barton

Photo: Galactic. Credit: Taylor Crothers