Interview with Galactic bass player Robert Mercurio
Photo Courtesy of Chad Smith
Meant to post this a few weeks back. Here's the full text of the brief, bare-bones interview I conducted with Galactic bass player Robert Mercurio early last month for the Bonnaroo Preview story for JamBase.
JamBase: This festival, along w/ JazzFest, seems to have had a profound effect on Galactic’s career, can you give us an idea of the extent that Bonnaroo has impacted the trajectory of y’all’s career?
Robert Mercurio: The first one probably had the biggest effect. We were still a younger band at that time and also it was such an event (I mean they all are). But that first one just had something special about it, because people questioned how you can get 80,000 people in the woods and no one get hurt, because it was unprecedented to have anything like that in the U.S. In '02 we had a really great late night spot and after that show for so many years I ran into so many fans afterwards saying “That’s the first time I saw you!” I think Bonnaroo is just such an amazing exposure gig because it brings in people from all over and they just come across you without even having to search you out. They’ll just walk by, say “Who is this band?!” and come in and join in the fun. We also had a big gig [in 2007] right before we released our album From the Corner to the Block where we invited like 2/3’s of the MC’s that appeared on that album. It was a really good exposure for that album.
The 2005 Krewe de Carnivale [Click to download] show sticks out in mind as the ultimate Galactic Bonnaroo late night and one of my favorite shows in general, can you share a memory from that night or the hip-hop oriented show in ’07?
That was awesome too and is kind of a prelude to what we’re doing now with Ya-Ka-May where we invite tons of New Orleans guests to come up and play with us. We had Kermit Ruffins, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Leo Nocentelli and a few others. So that was really fun for us to bring a little bit of New Orleans up to the middle of Tennessee. Again, I really always think we really shine the most at our night shows there. We get to play longer, it’s not as intimidating as the huge main stage set…actually we had a really good set on Which Stage one year…but the main stage is a big stage to fill. When we’ve played What Stage it’s in the afternoon and it’s not the same as the night-time under the lights, in a tent, that just kind of fits us well.
How does Bonnaroo stack up with the other festivals?
It’s a whole different animal. Jazz Fest is kind of unique because it’s not like a camping festival, it’s not really totally geared towards kids, it’s more geared towards a family-oriented atmosphere. The bookings [at] Jazz Fest are more geared towards New Orleans Heritage. Bonnaroo, you could try and compare it some of the other festivals out there like High Sierra or Mile High, but I feel Bonnaroo just takes a step above everything else. They really put a lot of effort and expenses into making it a really unique experience both visually and sonically with all bells and whistles. The production is great and they take it a little bit beyond what the expectations of a festival should be with the Comedy Tent. They just do things that you wouldn’t normally hear about with things like the Silent Disco. We’ve done a bunch of festivals in Europe and I have to say Bonnaroo is definitely the closest thing that America has to an American festival. Those festivals over there, they’ve just been doing them for a lot longer, they’re REALLY HUGE and it’s not this like “Oh, we’ll just maybe go to the festival” you go, everybody in the country goes rain-or-shine. Everybody’s out there and it’s just a really great experience. But Bonnaroo is the closest thing to that vibe.
Will you guys be around for more than the one day? Are you gonna check anyone else out?
We are only gonna be around that day because we’re playing the Harmony Festival that same weekend out on the West Coast. So we’re going to have to fly out early Saturday morning. Hopefully I’ll get to check out some Jay-Z, that’d be badass.
Can you give us a little idea of what’s in-store for fans who come out to this year’s 2:00 a.m. show?
We’re bringing in some extra production lighting-wise. It’s gonna be our most extravagant light show and stage set-up that we’ve ever done. We really just decided that we’re gonna go over-the-top this year. We’re excited to see it too, we haven’t really seen it either (laughs). Our Lighting Director has been working hard on it and programming it and it should be really a spectacle beyond what you’ve ever seen from a Galactic show. We’ll have Corey Henry and Cyril Neville with us at the Bonnaroo show like we’ve had on the entire Ya-Ka-May tour.