Galactic and Tea Leaf Green are no strangers to collaboration. The two groups have shared many festival marquees, jammed onstage and even spent a few days touring Florida together. So when the members of Galactic saw that Tea Leaf Green was scheduled to open their shows at Philadelphia’s TLA (2/4) and New York’s Terminal 5 (2/5), they decided to do something special: For the first time fans will be able to vote on which songs the two groups perform together. The Throw-down Request Live campaign features a pool of six classic covers— “Don’t Do It” (The Band), “Starman” (David Bowie), “I Want You Back” (Jackson 5), “So Lonely” (The Police). “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin‘” (The Rolling Stones) and “You Can Make It If You Try” (Sly & The Family Stone). The top two covers will be played live next month (the groups will play one song in Philadelphia and another song in New York). Below, Galactic bassist Robert Mercurio and Tea Leaf Green guitarist Josh Clarke discuss the origin of Throw-down Request Live, their upcoming tour and their latest batches of songs.
PART I: GALACTIC’S ROBERT MERCURIO
Photo by Kim Panzitta
Let’s start by talking about your upcoming shows with Tea Leaf Green. In addition to opening a few dates, all the members of Tea Leaf Green are going to join Galactic onstage for a few fan-selected covers. What initially inspired this idea?
It was really just a fun idea. We’d done a bunch of dates with Tea Leaf Green before, and we knew we wanted them to sit in with us. They also toured Florida with us once after Jam Cruise. So we wanted to turn it into something a little more fun and unpredictable on our part and their part. It will be really interesting to see what they play.
How did you come up with this particular selection of covers?
Both bands came up with some ideas and then we had a conference call to discuss them.
We were a little scared to put something completely random like a Cameo song because then everyone would automatically pick that song. So we tried to think of a mix of covers that would make sense for the two bands to play and that we could both learn. Galactic played most of these songs before—though I think Tea Leaf Green may have played one before.
I’ve always thought it was cool when a band did a spin the wheel show or a complete request show. I think Mike Doughty did a tour once where fans picked the songs they wanted to hear out of a hat. It is just really interesting to see what fans pick—we’ve never done anything like this before. Personally, I hope they vote for Michael Jackson.
Do you remember the first time you heard Tea Leaf Green’s music?
I believe the first time I heard them was on the boat [Jam Cruise]. It was in the room that they called the Zebra lounge this year. But the first time I really saw them was when they opened for us. They are a great band, and I haven’t even seen them with [new bassist] Reed Mathis. Reed and I are good friends, I’m sure he adds a good element to their music. He is just supper talented and blows away the idea of a traditional working bass player—from his time with Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey he really learned to make himself into a lead instrumentalist, but not in an annoying way
Speaking of collaborations, Jam Cruise has placed a huge emphasis on collaboration—especially amongst New Orleans musicians.
It definitely feels like the cruise is shifting more towards New Orleans and funk bands these days. It feels to me like my high school reunion [laughter]. The Weather was not as good this year, but it was still a great time and great meeting of musicians. We are fortunate that they keep asking us back.
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