The Galactic Cowboys is a melodic metal band that was active from 1989-2000 and released 6 full length albums and 1 EP during that time. After their last album, they decided to move onto their own separate ways, and aside from other musical projects from the individual members, not much was heard on the Galactic Cowboys front as a group until 2009, when they made the announcement that they would reconvene for a small 3-city reunion tour in Texas, appearing in Dallas, Austin, and Houston. That mini-tour highlight might have satisfied Galactic Cowboys fans for a short time and appeared that it would be the only chance they would ever be seen again together since their active touring days, until they again announced another reunion concert in Houston in 2013. And to my personal dismay, I was not able to attend those concerts for several reasons and assumed I had missed my last chance to ever see them play live. However, at the end of June 2014, a little announcement went out that yet again, the Galactic Cowboys would get together play another one-time reunion concert in early August. So with no apparent conflicts and careful planning, I found my way travelling with great excitement to Houston, the band member’s home (except for bassist Monty Colvin, who traveled down from Missouri), for the show.
They played at a downtown Houston club called Warehouse Live in The Studio, which was a nice-sized yet intimate club venue with a corner-oriented stage and plenty of standing room and some couch-like seating along the back wall. The concert started at 9 pm, and this year, they had one opening band called Peace and the Chaos, a blues rock band that gave a very soulful performance. Consisting of a trio including Billy Beaumont on guitar and lead vocals, Len Sonnier on bass and background vocals, and Ken Turner on drums and background vocals, they played a pleasurable hour-long set that ended around 10 pm. They included the songs Fame, Roses, The Beautiful Sea, Life, Push, Take Me Alive, and Second Time. And Len even brought out his 12-string bass on one song, which was really a sight to see! They had a King’s X type of vibe about them, but they definitely had a sound all their own with some very catchy riffs and occasionally layered vocals. They sufficiently got the crowd prepped for the long-awaited arrival of the Galactic Cowboys.
Consisting of the original four members – Ben Huggins (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica), Dane Sonnier (lead electric guitar, background vocals), Monty Colvin (bass, background and occasional lead vocals), and Alan Doss (drums, background vocals) – the Cowboys took the stage at about 10:30 pm. After Monty introduced the band and promised their intent to “crush your skulls,” they opened with the first song from their debut S/T album, I’m Not Amused. This is a great opening song that starts things into high gear, but includes many musical highlights including Ben’s tripling duty on vocals, Tex-Mex-Flamenco-ish guitar, and bluesy harmonica solos; thrashy and active basswork by Monty; shredding metal and soulful blues on the guitar by Dane; and solid drumwork holding it all together by Alan. Much to their amusement, the crowd helped finish the song by shouting “We’re Not Amused!” with the band as the song ended, setting the stage for a fun and interactive night to come.
After a great kick-off, they continued into another track from their debut album, Why Can’t You Believe in Me, which I was very pleased to see made the setlist. This is a wonderful, moderately-tempoed, and groove-laden song that really highlights the tight harmony vocals of the group. There were extended periods of instrumental only sections that allowed the solos to shine as well as the a capella sections where the vocals were showcased. The four-part harmonies sounded top-notch and bode well for the rest of the concert.
Venturing into material from their second album, the Cowboys then segued into the double header of the two opening songs from their Space in Your Face album, the short but energetic titular song, Space in Your Face, which the crowd seemed to thoroughly enjoy shouting along with the band while making way for the slower and bluesy guitar solo in between. They then transitioned seamlessly into the upbeat song, You Make Me Smile. Starting with a fairly fast-paced intro lead by Dane’s guitar, it is further introduced by the monster bass line by Monty before the vocals on the first verse begin. The chorus on this song is one of the catchiest ever written, layered well with the 4-part harmonies, yet it still refrains from the cheesiness that catchy songs sometimes fall victim to by incorporating the heaviness with a dash of thrash throughout the whole song.
Returning back to songs from their first album, Kaptain Krude was next in their set, the humorously written social commentary on the 1989 Valdez Oil Spill, providing a moment of some lightheartedness mixed with the aggressiveness of the tune. Ben also managed to highlight the last line from the track that may have been overlooked – “There goes the Green Peace….”
The fun continued as Kill Floor was next in line, a song that is a bit rawer and beat-driven with both melodic and aggressive overtones, which they ended with an extra little flair by sneaking in the ending from KISS’ song Love Gun. Enjoying this one, the band delivered the somewhat unstable mental state of the subject of the song of a slaughterhouse worker who perhaps gets a little too comfortable with his job that starts to extend beyond normal business hours.
Taking a break from the heavy songs with high energy and notching it down a bit, the Cowboys played the slower – but no less impactful – track Blind, from their Space in Your Face album. As Ben half-jokingly stated that they put this song at the point in the setlist to give themselves a musical break (especially after Kill Floor), it was still a crowd favorite with many singing along to the wistful song. This song allowed both Dane’s and Monty’s complementary guitar and bass lines shine, as well as the multi-layered vocals by all the band members.
Next, the Cowboys took on a couple of songs from their album Machine Fish, the first of which included the song 9th of June. An enjoyable song cautioning against trying to predict the date of the end of the world picked the pace up and continued the concert along, the moderate drive of the tune prepping the audience for their even faster next Machine Fish song, Stress. The frenetic pace and delivery of this song really communicated the feelings of being stressed out, and the band appeared to have a fun time letting loose on this song.
Sea of Tranquility came next, which is a fan favorite that they play at practically every concert. Starting out with Monty’s monster distorted bassline, this melodic song from their debut album conveys the amazing sights of the Earth as seen from space as it rotates. The tempo accelerates as the song gets started with a mixture of spoken verses and thickly layered harmonies in the background and during the chorus. This is one of Galactic Cowboy’s longer songs at about 7.5 minutes, and allowed each of the member’s talents to shine vocally and instrumentally. This song seemed fun for both the band and the audience.
Returning to a well-loved song from the Space in Your Face album, Mrs. Leslie showcased strong vocals by Ben in the lead, as well as the continued lovely layered harmonies by Dane, Monty, and Alan, especially in the chorus. The first half of this song is very melodic, but about halfway through, the style changes momentarily to a chunky and pseudo-thrashy riff for the instrumental solo section. However, this gives way again to the melodic chorus for the remainder of the song. This song also featured Ben again on acoustic guitar, and the one song that Monty played his 8-string bass for a musical treat.
If I Were a Killer was the last song in their set, which Ben introduced as possibly their most controversial song ever. This is another song that is heavy and little more aggressive and raw than some of their others. The highlight of this song was toward the end when Ben joined the crowd to sing the last of the song when things got a little more physical than anticipated and Ben ended up finishing his last scream lying on the floor with the audience around him. But even if all that wasn’t intentionally planned, it sure seemed like it could have been part of the show for an appropriately dramatic ending.
After an already great set, and the crowd was still pumped to hear more, the Cowboys came out with a substantial encore, to include the trilogy of songs that ended their S/T album. Seamlessly played together for a good 15 minute closing to the concert, including Pump Up the Space Suit, Ranch on Mars (Reprise), and Speak to Me, they transitioned one right into the other without missing a beat. Pump Up the Space Suit is similar to Space in Your Face, being a short but jam-packed little tune that ventures into their space-themed songs and the perils of the potential crises that could happen while spacewalking in the vacuum of space. With the quickly-spoken lyrics, the crowd joined in on the iconic “Pump Up the Space Suit” interjections with enthusiasm. This transitioned seamlessly into the next song, Ranch on Mars (Reprise), a classic GC tune with trademark 4-part harmonies and the declaration that “Galactic Cowboys never age!” This song again segued into their longest song that closed out the encore, the spiritually inclined Speak to Me. This song closed the concert again featuring Ben with both his acoustic guitar and harmonica talents in addition to handling the poignant lead vocals as it started off softly with just the acoustic and layered vocals as the first verse began. The song slowly built up as the drums and bass entered at the second verse and electric guitar came in at the second chorus as a lengthy instrumental break featured harmonica solos and spoken word over the guitar riffs before the bridge and chorus returned. As the second instrumental break wound down, the crowd was invited by Monty to sing again with them on the choral “Speak to Me” interlude, which the crowd easily obliged. As the song neared the end, Dane played one of the most soulful blues solos, which brought the song to its triumphant end. (Aside: They did not add the “lunch menu” ending from the studio track, in case anyone was wondering.) And just like that, the show was over even as it seemed it had just begun.
After the set, the band came out to the floor and mingled with all of the fans who wished to stay and get autographs, take pictures, and/or chat. They were very accessible to their fans and showed appreciation to all who came out from near and far.
Personally, I experienced a great amount of kindness and patience from all of them as they signed the items I had brought, and graciously posed for pictures together. Their families were also in attendance and they were very friendly and spoke to the fans as well. The band stayed as long as the venue would allow, well into the early morning hours, making sure everyone had a chance to speak to them and get a picture or an autograph.
Overall, I felt the show went quite well, with a good ebb and flow, and showed the tightness of a band who has worked hard together over the years. In addition to their technical and musical abilities, it was also very clear that they are a band that likes to have fun and enjoy each other’s company, and they share that enthusiasm with their audience. They put on a good performance but yet don’t take themselves too seriously. And if there were any small technical issues along the way, they were able to carry on in spite of them. Although they have not been active as a band in the studio together for 14+ years, the chemistry among the members is clear and the individual talents they bring to the group are greater than the sum of their parts. Though there isn’t any definite word that the Galactic Cowboys will join up for any future reunion concerts, if they do play again, it would be a show not to miss.
Live footage from the concert