When you think of Star Wars movies, your mind may often be reminded of John Williams’ iconic themes that have become synonymous with the franchise’s imagery. From the opening crawl theme to the Skywalker theme to the “Imperial March,” it’s unforgettable music that helps make Star Wars what it is.
Galactic Empire is a band of five of the biggest Star Wars fans in the galaxy, who came together after their drummer got the idea to put drums to Williams’ music. The band ended up fleshing out several compositions piece by piece in a metal styling until they had an album’s worth of music.
In 2023, the band is releasing their third studio album, titled Special Edition via Pure Noise Records, following 2017’s self-titled album and 2018’s aptly titled Episode II. To celebrate, they hosted an album release show in Lititz, PA at Mickey’s Black Box. We had the pleasure of catching their live show and, we have to say – it’s quite an experience!
Although I’ve been going to shows in eastern Pennsylvania since the mid-1990’s, I’ve never been to (or heard of) Mickey’s Black Box. But after doing a little digging online, I found that it’s a relatively new venue, having just opened in 2021. The venue is actually on the campus of a music production school called Rock Lititz, which launched in 2014. Well, I have to admit that the Black Box is a pretty cool venue (outside and in), and I hope they bring around more great acts in the near future.
Since Lititz isn’t exactly right around the corner from us, we arrived during the opening band’s show, about 30 minutes before the main event. When Galactic Empire took the stage, they appropriately kicked off their set with the Star Wars theme, even including a special “Revenge of the 5th” opening crawl, which welcomed the audience to the show and even asked everyone to be courteous of it being an all-ages show. I thought that was a nice touch, given that the Black Box has a bar and otherwise feels like an over 21-exclusive venue. Inside, it was General Admission, with standing room on the main floor in front of the stage, and seating up in the balcony area (which also had some super comfy chairs and some small, round tables).
The Galactic band members were clad in custom outfits that captured a distinct Star Wars vibe, although they’re not any actual specific, pre-existing Star Wars characters. Previously, in their early days, the members would dress as Darth Vader, a storm trooper, Boba Fett, a TIE fighter pilot, and one of the Emperor’s royal guards, but one can assume they ran into copyright issues and had to alter their uniforms. Still, it adds to the aesthetic and vibe of the show, and only helps sell the theme of the band.
Galactic Empire continued with fan favorite songs like “Duel of Fates” and “Battle of the Heroes” before playing anything off of the new album. When the members would address the audience, a booming, pre-recorded voice – with sort of a Darth Vader-esque bravado – would play as the guys would mime to it.
And, as one might expect at a show like this, a few local cosplayers came out on stage and battled light sabers with each other on stage as the band performed behind them, with one Jedi-robe-clad fan after another battling a Sith or Darth Maul cosplayer. At one point, the stage crew tossed five giant Death Star-themed beach balls into the audience for fans to bat around. It was silly fun, but entertaining for sure.
Eventually they did kick into some new tracks, like the themes from “The Mandalorian” and “The Book of Boba Fett” before closing with the “Victory Celebration.” But this night of music was beyond the norm in more ways than one. Somehow, I’d missed the memo that th
ere would be a special one-off guest appearance at the show, and surprisingly enough it was none other than one-third of the legendary hip hop group Run DMC, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels! Sporting a Galactic Empire tee, McDaniels came out on stage with a female vocalist as support (although her mic kept cutting in and out the entire time) and performed a new song for the Lititz crowd. He then followed it with the classic Run DMC songs “Tricky” and “Walk This Way” to close out the night.
It was definitely an odd treat to get a taste of an act as iconic as Run DMC at a show of this kind. But when all was said and done, we were rather surprised that Galactic Empire’s set – even with McDaniels’ three songs – was completed just under an hour. Granted, they must have been dying from the heat of performing in full Star Wars regalia, but for an album release show of this magnitude, I think we expected just a little more.
If you’re a Star Wars enthusiast, enjoy the work of John Williams, and can appreciate a metal band giving iconic themes a truly unique treatment, you’ll need to check out the most-impressive work of Galactic Empire. The musicianship of these guys is out of this world, and they have a knack for making already great music sound new and exciting.
— John DiBiase (May 6, 2023)