There are few certainties in life but one of them is: You can’t go wrong seeing Galactic at New Orlean’s beloved “House that Funk built” Tipitina’s, especially during the ten days of Jazz Fest mirth and mayhem. Long before the members of the legendary Crescent City band pooled their resources and outright bought the club it had served as their home base during the fest and year-round. Just before COVID hit the band and the building became one big happy family. Now, when saxophonist Ben Ellman, drummer Stanton Moore, bassist Rob Mercurio, guitarist Jeff Raines, and organist Jeff Vogel along with current vocalist the sizzling Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph and touring trumpeter Eric Gordon take the stage at the venerable venue they’re taking their home court figuratively and literally.

Though Galactic’s shows during Jazz Fest were always guaranteed sellouts and among the hottest in town it was well-known that the band took it up a notch at Tip’s. To ensure the night got off to a special start Galactic took the stage with its first special guest, percussionist extraordinaire Mike Dillion (Les Claypool’s Flying Frog Brigade), already squarely in place, ready to rock.

Related: Galactic’s Rob Mercurio Talks Protecting Legacies & His Jazz Fest Workload [Interview]

After a quick set-opening “Y’er Comes The Funky Man” which also served as a soundcheck, “Jelly” Joseph brought her boundless energy to the stage for high-octane versions of classics like “You Don’t Know” and “Make It Better” which saw Ellman go into his first set of over the top sax displays and arguably the greatest funk drummer to ever pick up sticks, Stanton Moore, push the envelope with looping fills, brushes, and cymbal rides that seem to come naturally to the smiling madman.

Even when the band members intend to lay back in the cut on tunes like the downbeat “Domino” and “Go Down” Galactic can’t help but impress. Lucas Ellman joined the band (and cousin Ben) for some dual sax family freakouts before Big Chief Juan Pardo popped out to drop bars and jaws with his Mardi Gras Indian flow. Joseph repeatedly displayed the sheer power of her pipes and ability to control a crowd on tracks like the harmonica-heavy “Heart Of Steel.”

Sax giant James Carter, again figuratively and literally (the man towers above almost everyone on the stage) made his first visit to Tipitina’s for some incredible runs and peals with astonished and appreciative Ellman acting as his one-man hype squad as well as one-third of a horn attack alongside Gordon. “Who Took The Happiness Out” rang out to the night before Carter helped make Galactic’s much-loved cover of “Compared To What” that much deeper and weighty.

Carter grabbed his clarinet for the next pair of tunes, “Never Called You Crazy” and a near delirious “Hamps Hump” that cracked the set wide open. Carter finished off the tune and his guest spot by breaking back out his sax for a breakdown so dank the rest of the players on the stage stopped in their collective tracks, transfixed by the powerful, breathy display Carter put on.

Galactic classics “Something’s Wrong With This Picture” and “Dolly Diva” served as sonic palette cleansers before the last guest of the evening, the always-welcome reggae rapping powerhouse Matisyahu came out to spit fire so hot it’s a wonder the marshall didn’t show up and shut down the show.

The spindly rapper brought a couple of his own tracks, “King Without A Crown” and “One Day” and served as a picture-perfect example of the opportunities Jazz Fest offers in terms of one-of-a-kind shows that simply can’t happen any other place or time outside of the annual visit to music’s Mecca. Sliding a verse of the Bob Marley classic “No Woman, No Cry” effortlessly into “One Day” somehow incited the crowd even more to get down and, for a moment, Tip’s once again became the actual center of the musical universe.

After a few well-earned minutes of cheers and prodding, Galactic came back and gave the shell-shocked but jubilant fans one last sonic treat, a funky take on the Aretha Franklin track “Rock Steady”. The exhausted audience rallied for just one more round of booty-shaking mayhem on the dance floor and a most enthusiastic round of calamitous, clapping appreciation.

Though it was barely 1 a.m., the show was over and it was time to clear the stage for the next concert of the evening and most of the band to run off to even later late-night gigs. That said, it’s clear the Galactic ensemble knows that when the band members’ time on their stage rolls around it’s their duty to show just why they are the owners of not just the building but the actual soul of this legendary funk venue. If you go to New Orleans during Jazz Fest and don’t catch Galactic at Tips there’s a strong argument to be made that you did it all wrong.

Galactic – Tipitina’s – New Orleans, LA – 4/28/23 – Preview

Setlist: Galactic | Tipitina’s | New Orleans, LA | 4.28.23

Set: Y’er Comes the Funky Man (Bob French’s Storyville Jazz Band), You Don’t Know, Make It Better, Domino, Go Down, Right On, Qualified (Dr. John), Heart Of Steel, Who Took The Happiness Out (Dirty Dozen Brass Band), Compared to What (Les McCann & Eddie Harris), Never Called You Crazy, Hamp’s Hump (Paul Hampton), Something Wrong With This Picture, Dolla Diva, King Without A Crown [1], One Day [1] [2]

Encore: Rock Steady (Aretha Franklin)

[1] w/ Matisyahu

[2] w/ Bob Marley “No Woman, No Cry” verse

jazz fest late night, fest by nite