Dionysians do it better

It’s pretty amazing that the Greeks could coin a term thousands of years ago that so aptly describes an exciting show like Galactic’s. Performing last Wednesday at Mr. Small’s Theatre, the band demonstrated what we might call Dionysian revelry.

Though we share dance as a common link to our ancient friends, one advantage we do have over the Greeks is electricity. We carry on their traditions of song, dance, and communal drinking, but they could not have even dreamed of their lyre becoming an electric guitar or their flute transforming into a baritone saxophone. Furthermore, because we have electricity, we can synchronize our lights with the rhythms of the songs, and we have total control over the shapes and colors they produce. Instead of dancing around the fire and singing together, we cheer before the electric glow of the performers onstage.

Before Galactic took the stage, opening performer Papa Mali advised the crowd in song to “Drink a little beer/ drink a little wine/ Smoke a little kind/ Gotta keep you happy.”

Papa Mali’s lines apply directly to the show, the venue, the audience, and possibly even the performers themselves. Mr. Small’s Theatre is a place where the beer flows like wine and smoke fills the air. Not surprising, the show was restricted to those 21 and older. You have to be of age to get in, but once you’re in, it’s revelry at its finest.

Besides the strong liquors, the music also proved a factor for intoxication. Galactic is a powerful group, and its members play together with precision. Each instrument adds a new level of intensity to the final product, and when they add the saxophone, the melody is driven by the ensemble. Center stage Ben Ellman sings through his horns.

The leader of a rock and roll band must either play the guitar or sing or do both, right? Well, not if the band is Galactic. There are a number of reasons why this band defies most conventional rock and roll wisdom.

First of all, the band’s singer, Theryl DeClouet, left two years ago. Galactic has since continued as an instrumental quintet. None of the band members — not keyboardist Rich Vogel, drummer Stanton Moore, or bassist Robert Mercurio — sing in this band. Guitarist Jeff Raines also doesn’t sing, and he stands to the side when he plays. Ellman doesn’t sing or play guitar, but rather plays saxophones and harmonicas.

All of this shouldn’t seem too strange. After all, a lot of bands have been led by instrument players. John Coltrane had a few bands of his own. Playing the trumpet, Miles Davis also led a few. Herbie Hancock, Thelonius Monk, and Count Basie are some of the greatest bandleaders in history, and they all played the piano. Herbie Mann even led some while playing the flute.

When faced with New Orleans jazz-inspired funk rock, uncontrolled convulsions are inevitable. One young lady at the show was dancing so wildly that she kept hitting people in the face as they walked by; it seemed to be a typical reaction to the music.

Dionysian revelry such as Wednesday night’s has a few obvious benefits for society. Besides reconnecting those present with the natural forces of the Earth, it may also lead to procreation of the species. Hot chick bassist Cass Ferguson, who plays with Papa Mali, demonstrated this effect when she joined Galactic onstage ­­— pounding out hardcore bass lines and gyrating sexily. She captivated the audience, and may have indirectly encouraged the use of the free condoms that were distributed.