Live Music Review >>
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Dude! Youï¿½ï¿½ï¿½re in a three-piece? Christ!ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½- one fan to another, exiting the sauna of a 9:30 club at 1:45 AM, 1/8/06
Being a true ska fan takes dedication. Having to countenance declarations that ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½no one likes ska anymoreï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ and ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½it was a fadï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ in the pages of glossy, mainstream music magazines gets aggravating after you read them a thousand times. True, the scene and the art form took a hit ca. 2000 after MTV realized that they could make more money with boy bands, and when Moon Ska Records (the issuers of the Pietasterï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s breakthrough Oolooloo) closed up shop, but the best bands survived the fall, emerging stronger and smarter. Two of them, NYCï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s trad-ska powerhouse The Slackers and DCï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s own indefinable The Pietasters, performed to a packed, bouncing house at the 9:30 Club on Saturday night.
The bandï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s respective sets perfectly displayed why they are both such strong outfits. Singer/keyboardist Vic Ruggiero, the consummate New Yawkah, made it a point to establish a good ground with the DC crowd right off the bat, with the political ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Propaganda.ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ He soon got off it, though, since he realized halfway into their first song that heï¿½ï¿½ï¿½d be preaching to the choir anyway. The Slackers played an hour-long set that only for brief moments lost its luster. Prodigious saxophonist Dave Hillyard, and bombastic trombone player Glen Pine, who has assumed elevated vocal duties, for better or for worse, added a dramatic flair to Ruggieroï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s outstanding pieces of songwriting. Considering how much energy The Slackers emanated through the likes of ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½The Nurse,ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Iï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ll Stay Away,ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ a notably an uproarious rocksteady version of the Jewish traditional ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Dreidel Song,ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ their new rotation seems to be heading in the right direction.
Between sets, the house blared Operation Ivyï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Unity,ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ and hundreds of people on the floor—three-piece suits, leather jackets, and less descript attire alike—all screamed along, not content to let the energy lag. If the crowd hadnï¿½ï¿½ï¿½t already burned themselves out by then, theyï¿½ï¿½ï¿½d lend that devotion and energy to hometown heroes The Pietasters, who didnï¿½ï¿½ï¿½t hit the stage until after midnight. Judging by how singer Stephen Jackson could not stay in one spot of the stage for more than five seconds, the band was enjoying it even more.
The Pietasters, wisely enough, began their set with a barrage of their R&B flavored songs (including ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Set Me Up,ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ which they dedicated to former mayor Marion Barry), and second vocalist Selah showed up once their set delved into reggae and ska, including favorites ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Drunken Masterï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ and ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Canï¿½ï¿½ï¿½t Stand It.ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ Tight skanking-circles had been popping up throughout the night, pits soon began to move, most noticeably by the time they broke into ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Somebody.ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ They even closed their set with a speedy cover of The Businessï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Drinking and Driving,ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ a true treat for all, especially the punks and skins alike, dozens of whom crammed the stage and stole the microphones. The band soon returned for a four-song encore, complete with their early signature ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Maggie Mayï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ and, the song that attracted most casual listeners way back when, ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½New Breed.ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ The stage filled up again during ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Maggie Mayï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ and remained packed through three more songs until the house lights came up.
It seems like the octet, no matter how often they play in DC, always leave their hometown crowd wanting more, and every scene represented within the eclectic, sell-out crowd seems strangely in place. Though skaï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s days as cultural juggernaut are gone, bands like The Pietasters and The Slackers will always be ties that bind.