Live Review: Galapagos

Last night the Wild Buffalo House of Music in Bellingham, Washington played host to GALAPAGOS, a rising force in the Northwest music scene. The concert showcased the quartet’s new album Symposium, recorded just north of the border at Blue Frog Studios in White Rock, B.C. When I arrived during setbreak at 11pm a crowd of 250-300 wookies and hipsters mingled freely in anticipation of the Galapagos set. I asked my friend Ned how was the opening band Mr. Feelgood and the Firm Believers.  “It was good.  They had a cello player who did some weird shit”.
My high school math teacher’s son tasked me with reviewing Galapagos’s new album entitled “SYMPOSIUM”, but I took it upon myself to review the album release show as well. 5-string bass player Matt Taggart, drummer Nick Robinson, keyboardist and singer Kendra Hackett, and guitarist Ryan Nutter have made great strides in their first year of operation.

Hyper-technical harmony and unison passages are well balanced by solid groove and the funk inclinations of the bassist and keyboardist. I listened to the title track earlier in the day and was immediately impressed by the good tone and inventive new music on the band’s freshman effort.

Whilst ordering a Firestone Union Jack IPA at the bar, I ran into my good friend Mark. A snippet of the conversation: Mark- ”I just got my wisdom teeth pulled”, Me- “You got some nice painkillers?”, Mark- “YEAH!, Me- “Don’t drink too much”, Mark(With double whiskey in hand)- ”Yeeeaaah?”.  And then Galapagos got off to the races.

At 11:20pm the band kicked off a grimy half-time funk groove and soon slipped into a straight ahead pocket while the keyboardist sang quite soulfully. At the end of the chorus, the entire band executed a tight unison passage reminiscent of Beyond the Buried and Me(NC), another band who balance prog, classical, groove, and electronic sensibilities.  Next came a slap bass break during which the band comped a nice simple groove. As the bass fired ahead, a keyboard solo took the baton and took of to a darker aural space.
Mrs. Hackett stood out throughout the evening for her textural morphing abilities.  From full on Transylvanian castle organ to the Amadeus king fix piano ditty to chopped Clavinet stabs, the keys were always in the right spot and pleasantly surprising. Mr Taggart laid heavy bass foundations all night and showed great dexterity with his ability to move from popping funk to high voiced chord extensions.  My only major critique of the band dynamic is that the Mr. Taggart was now given enough tempo responsibilities as the the drummer was the main timekeeper.  Galapagos has also been criticized in the past for excess volume, but yesterday they played with restraint and precision.  The band also needs to incorporate more dynamics into the show as the volume, especially from the drummer, who played excellently but remained at a forte-fortissimo level too often.
Galapagos in not for the faint of musical heart.  They bring a big sound and play for themselves in a refreshing fashion.  In my opinion too many groups emphasize hypothetical connection with the audience by dulling down to common denominators and pandering to the POP.  Mrs. Hackett explains. “Our goal…is to play whatever is in our hearts, regardless of how we think it may be received by the audience. We want to do something new and exciting. The world needs something different.”