The Scene: The air was thick with anticipation last Saturday as the venue filled up early for round two of The M&Ms, a “Super Group” forged by the hands of Stanton Moore and Robert Mercurio (Galactic), John Medeski (Medeski Martin and Wood) and Papa Mali (7 Walkers). The collaboration of amazing artists turned out a solid slice of the Big Easy on Friday, leaving fans excited for more.
I saw lots of familiar faces—all the ones I usually see at the “harder” Jam shows. There certainly seemed to be a of the dearth younger fuzzy-boot wearing, hula-hoop bearing regulars that we so often see at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom. It was rather refreshing. The crowd in the main venue was dominated by Galactic fans—they are a bit edgier than your typical Jam fan. Along with Papa Mali, Moore and Mercurio drew a crowd that was raucous yet jovial. There were some softer hippie-types, no doubt fans of the Jazzier tunes of Medeski, Martin and Wood. On Saturday, the show was opened by local group The Recovery Act and the also local, and well-loved boys of Fox Street. Adding to this, local Hip-Hop act Whiskey Blanket, playing in the Other Side, drew a large crowd of a different demographic—the group out of Boulder has been on the scene for over ten years and has garnered an impressive following which added a nice mix to the overall scene in the dual venue event. Back in the main room, the sounds of Soul, Funk and Rock and Roll got the crowd moving early—and drinking heavily. By the time the M&Ms took the stage, the crowd was raging and ready.
The M&Ms: When the headlining act took the stage I stood back for just a bit to take note of the impressive lineup laid before me. On the left of the stage, John Medeski was posted; a keyboard player of maximum proportion—his avant-garde Jazz Fusion speaks to the soul in a way words cannot describe. To his right, Papa Mali; a famous guitar player in his own right, who has created his own little genre which he lovingly refers to as Swamp music, a mix of Southern Rock, Soul and Funk with a dash of rasta—no doubt thanks to his musical upbringing in the southern Reggae scene. In the back, of course, was Stanton Moore, whose iconic style is something of lore among lovers of his genre. To his left was Robert Murcurio, another champion of the Crescent City music scene, his bass is often the driving force behind the tunes: he puts the junk in the trunk of the Funk. Backed up by the Femme&Ms, Margie Perez and Monica McIntyre, stage was something to behold, and the tunes emanating from it—to be relished. Needless to say there was a funky dance party on Saturday at Cervantes’. Rugs were cut. The fantastic light was tripped. The crowd drunkenly swayed and grooved to a barrage of classic New Orleans’ Jazz/Funk tunes, peppered with some fun covers-gone-funk. At some point I wandered in for The Who’s “Eminence Front”—their soulful twist on the classic Rock tune marked a personal highlight for the evening.
By midnight, the place was jam-packed, including the new outside stage area, announcing to all (despite some nasty weather forecasting), “Summer is here!” Along with Red Rocks shows, there is something quintessentially “summer” about sweaty wall-to-wall people-packed shows at Cervantes’. My crew and I posted up in the balcony area to make some space for dancing and watching. All were entertained with the sound, but several in the crowd (and within my own group) gave special acknowledgement to Stanton Moore. As my little brother put it, “They are all pretty rad and funky, but that drummer fucking wails!” Personally, I was impressed with Papa Mali’s on-point guitar. He is not the best singer in the world, but he has cleaned it up a lot over the years and sounded better than he has in the past. As usual, the show at Cervantes’ went late into the wee hours of the Sunday morning. It was an exciting show, especially for those Galactic fans who are looking forward to seeing their favorite act at this summer’s Arise Music Festival—no doubt, they went to sleep Sunday morning with dreams of New Orleans Jazz music dancing in their hands. Sleep well, Denver. Summer is here!
Stage Presence: B
Set/Light Show: B+