It seems excessively late for a December 2012 recap from where we currently stand, forward facing the bitter cold of January’s last frame. In my defense, I went a bit overboard late last year, insisting on drinking and smoking through a cold that became a full-fledged plague by the last night of the Hometown Throw down. With a weekend of fun ska/punk shows coming up, it’s a good time to recap the madness.
Home For The Skalidays at The Audio Jungle
It started innocently enough in the middle of the month. A Guy Named Guy was headlining the Audio Jungle with a toys for tots benefit. I took a long lunch that day and secured my tot toy at Newberry comics. Come 6 ‘o clock, toy and camera gear in hand, I was headed to Allston. This was a fantastic show. Mr. Furious started the night off, and impressed the hell out of me. I finally got to see Short Handed Goal, a ska punk band based out of RI. Nice guys and a solid set. Fort! The band was up next and always destroys a basement with their ever-evolving gypsy ska-punk-slouch madness. I can’t get enough of Fort!, it’s never the same show twice, and the energy they bring to the table as a collective is impressive. Connecticut’s Llama Tsunami continue to be my nutmeg state ska crush, powering through a strong set of original material sprinkled with energetic covers. I took a setlist, from a basement show, that’s how much I respect this band. A Guy Named Guy, fresh off the release of their Terminals split with Puerto Rico’s D-Cent Jerks, brought the night to a close. If you only know this band from the incredibly popular, and polished, youtube video for “Ska’s Not Dead,” a song they quite possibly retired that night, you have no idea how hard these guys will thrash through a set.
Brunt Of It- Boston CD Release Show at Monster Shop Allston
Allston kept things going the next night at the Monster Shop when, what some people dubbed Fort! The Weekend, continued. Ok, maybe it was only Fort! The Band who called it that, but you have to admit it’s catchy. Brunt of It was celebrating the release of their brilliant “All Aboard The Cannabus” that weekend, and had Lenny Lashley’s Gang of One, The Snipes, and Fort! with them to help. I know better than to bring equipment here, so I have nothing to show you. I’m also not going to say very much, except that I forced a few friends to travel with me, and they couldn’t believe the quality of music on display. Lenny Lashley is a national treasure. Deeply moving. Brunt Of It is one of the area’s finest Ska-Punk bands, has a deeply moving live presence, and their mix of hard core and ska works a crowd like no other. The last track on their new album is called Apocalyptic Dance party for a reason.
Bomb The Music Industry at Middle East Downstairs
Bomb The Music Industry can be a divisive band. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but if it’s yours, you tend to want to bathe in it. Fronted by Jeff Rosenstock, previously of The Arrogant Sons of Bitches, BtMI! Had a solid 8 years of DIY mayhem behind them leading up to this show. This was billed as the last performance of the band, as a touring band, in the United States. If that sounds confusing, it’s because it is, and people take BtMi announcements with a grain of salt. Regardless, there was no way this show was going to be anything but the most beautiful shit show ever. There was no safety on the floor of the Middle East, with the entire crowd caught up in a wave of pressure, expectations, and enthusiasm. There was no standing still, the crowd became its own entity, moving and living as it pleased. When the Middle East Downstairs begins to sweat, you know something special is going on. To fully appreciate the wonderment of a BtMI performance, you have to watch the polished and professional performance that is not there. There’s beauty in the Chaos. The occasional tongue-in-cheek lapses into Pennywise’s Bro-Hymn were a highlight for me, as was the moment where a brief off the cuff 311 cover caught the youthful crowd off guard. Don’t ask me if it was ironic, or how you should react, I just lean back and enjoy the tangle web that Rosenstock & Co weave. Great performances by the always fun Math the Band, The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, and Sean Eldon & The Greatest Dane started the night. I was 2 or 3 sheets to the wind at this show, from the start, so I can’t give you much of a breakdown of the openers except they were compelling. Thanks to Chris from Threat Level Burgundy for letting me talk his ear off in line, and to Alex and Danielle for finding me in the pit and making sure I wasn’t being eaten by the imaginary dragons I was seeing. I hope everyone made it out of this alive. Fun, just fun.
AGNG/Poor Jeremy at Stellar House
So, work was a little rough the next day. I’m a high school P.E. teacher, and we were running the mile. I let the kids have a go at it themselves, and I lost a few. After filing the incident report, I was headed back out to Allston. The AGNG/The Mahlors/Poor Jeremy show at All Asia was moved to Allston due to venue issues. Unfortunately, I really couldn’t stay very long due to a prior commitment in front of a review board that Saturday morning. I needed to recharge a bit, but I really wanted to capture Poor Jeremy on film. A relatively new band, this was only their second live show. They’ve been making themselves known on Facebook and Reddit, and I wanted to see if they had a live show in them. They do. They sound remarkable for the amount of time they have been playing out, have a good energy, and sound great. Keep an eye out for these kids, they are only going to get better. Oh yeah, the world didn’t end. Damn.
Pleasure Cooker at Middle East Upstairs
After the rough week, Saturday was a necessary slow down. The smooth sounds of Pressure Cooker were exactly what the Doctor ordered. Actually, the doctor ordered bed rest, no alcohol, a nasal steroid, and a full psych evaluation, but that’s really none of your business. Pressure Cooker is one of Boston’s best ska/reggae bands and a new album is truly something to celebrate. Boston Ska covered this already, so I won’t say much except that I’m still employed, and this band is truly a delight to see live. They used Kickstarter to help fund the record, and I would fund another ten if given the opportunity. Pick up “Wherever You Go” if you can, you will not be disappointed.
Mash It Up Fest at Middle East Downstairs
The lineup was listed as Bim Skala Bim, SUPERSKA, Riki Rocksteady and The Arraignments, and Nick and The Adversaries. Being billed as “Mash It Up Fest” in celebration of the much loved, heavily influential, Mash It Up compilations. Steady Earnest was rumored to be performing as well.
This was truly a celebration of Boston’s local music scene. It’s a pleasure to see Nick Bacon in any band, and the adversaries’ soul influenced rock & roll is captivating. You should already be aware of this band if you enjoy playing either of the popular Boston party games, How Many Bands Is Alex Stern In?, or Spot Steve Foote. One of those games is harder than the other.
Riki Rocksteady and The Arraignments is still one of my favorite live shows in Boston. You can’t go wrong when you combine Boston’s best toaster with a lineup of proven ska and punk musicians. SUPERSKA is Boston’s traditional ska powerhouse, a collective of veteran musicians attacking classic compositions that result in such beautiful instrumental jams it becomes impossible not to applaud after each solo. Sure enough, with SUPERSKA already on the bill, they were easily transformed into another Ska Super group, Steady Earnest. This was a big deal for me. I’ve never seen Steady Earnest, a band formed around 1994 by Bim’s lead singer, Dan Vitale. A very fun, danceable ska, with R&B sensibilities. I couldn’t keep the camera steady, but still managed to record it for you. After a loose, energetic set, that built off the energy SUPERSKA brought to the stage, Bim Skala Bim finished up the night. A Bim Skala Bim show is a special occasion. Since their post Hometown Throwdown #12 reunion, the band has been playing a few shows a year. I put the camera away and proceeded to get drunker, something that Dan Vitale’s stage presence always seems to make me want to do. These shows are a always a party, and the well lubricated crowd went appropriately nuts. Speaking of the crowd, people who come from out of town for the Hometown Throw Down, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones annual series of December shows, showed up in full force to pre-game. The 737 were in fine form , and surprisingly Chris Rhodes was not accosted when he showed up to check out Bim Skala Bim. Good show of restraint y’all.
Mighty Mighty Bosstones at House Of Blues
The next 3 nights are a sort of gravelly voiced blur. It’s quite possible a motivational factor in my moving to Boston, from Los Angeles, was my childhood love of the Bosstones. I count myself in the 737, and each Hometown Throwdown is a sort of family reunion where everyone is the drunk uncle. Well, If those uncles colonized a local hotel and wreaked havoc for three days.
The Bosstones are always amazing and never disappoint. Considering most of you have stopped reading at this point, I’ll be brief. With a projected, larger than life citgo sign in the background, the Bosstones powered through 3 wonderful nights of music. The 29th featured Boston 80’s garage Rockers the Dogmatics and the Nashville based Soul Radics. The Soul Radics have a new album on Jump-Up records called “Down The Hall”, and I cannot recommend it enough. Very solid female fronted trad-inspired skinhead reggae. The 30th started with a change of pace, featuring local rapper Moufy. My friend Bill was more than excited, and the crowd was fairly receptive. The Bouncing Souls were up next, and ripped through their set which included “Lean On Sheena”, a song Fat Mike of NoFx once joked was the best song they ever wrote. Of course, it’s a song originally written and performed by Joe Gittleman’s Avoid One Thing. Fantastic tune, and a great set.
The New Years Eve show, the only one of the three to extend past midnight, had three fantastic openers. All the way from Japan, the Convictions opened the night with a solid start. Big D was up next and powered through a short set, cracking me up by introducing an Operation Ivy cover as an Iron Maiden song. Big D is one of my favorite bands. They bravely attack new musical territory with every record and bring a hectic energy to every performance. 25 minutes is too sort a set for me, but it was necessary to make room for an extended performance by The Amazing Royal Crowns. The reformation of these Rhode Island native Rockabilly-via-Psychobilly punkers was a big deal for a lot of people, and they did not disappoint with a blistering batch of songs.
By the time the Bosstones helped count down the new year, my throat was on fire, I was seeing double, and my liver was writing a ransom note. There is no such thing as too many ska shows, but there is such a thing as failing to pace yourself. Taking the first 3 weeks of January to heel up, the adventure that is this wonderful local music scene continued last weekend with the Stray Bullets and The Radicals at The Midway Cafe on the 26th, Reel Big Fish at the House of Blues on the 27th. Performances The Pomps and The Agents are also in the near future. Support local music, stay employed, and remember to gargle twice a day.
Kevin Davila is a cartoonist who can’t draw and loves ska. Find him on twitter at @kfdavila.