Thursday, February 4, 2016

Support Fundraisers for Dan "Brukky" Klein of The Frightnrs, Diagnosed with ALS

Dan "Brukky" Klein of The Frightnrs
Dan "Brukky" Klein, The Frightnrs' amazing singer, was recently diagnosed with ALS (commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease)--and he and his family have a daunting road ahead. 

Please consider making a donation of any amount to help him with medical expenses at the You Caring "Support Dan "Brukky" Klein in Living with ALS" page.

A big NYC benefit show is being planned for this spring...details should be released within the next few days. It would be wonderful if the NYC ska massive comes out in full force for this one.

Our thoughts and support go out to Dan, his family and friends, and The Frightnrs.

Big D and The Kids Table, J. Navarro and the Traitors Contribute Tracks to Flint Water Crisis Relief Benefit Album: "Not Safe to Drink"

If you've been following the news (and you should be), you know that the cost-cutting actions taken by an emergency manager appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who switched the city of Flint, MI's water supply in April 2014 from Lake Huron to the heavily polluted Flint River, which ended up corroding the city's aging lead water pipes and releasing extremely high levels of lead into the tap water--resulted in the poisoning of Flint's residents, who were drinking and bathing in this incredibly toxic brew (during this time, GM's factory in Flint stopped using the city's water supply, as it was rusting its engines, and the state brought in bottled water to its buildings in Flint and told employees not to drink from the water fountains, while Flint residents continued to use the city's tap water).

It appears that for about 18 months, state officials ignored signs that Flint's water was completely unsafe to drink and dismissed pleas from Flint residents and officials for action to be taken to remedy the situation. Even worse, it is estimated that up to 8,000 Flint children six years and under may be suffering from the irreversible effects of lead poisoning. [Update, 2/7/16: Rolling Stone has an excellent piece explaining how all of this transpired in their February 11, 2016 issue.]

Last October, Flint's water supply finally was reconnected to Lake Huron, but its pipes continue to leach lead (and who knows when these pipes will be replaced).

Multiple state and federal investigations of this outrageous and horrific man-made disaster are now underway. But there is a long road ahead for the children of Flint--many of whom will experience life-long developmental disabilities and physical ailments as a result of their poisoning. [Update, 2/6/16: The New York Times just published this editorial that sums up this whole outrageous fiasco and how Republicans at the federal and state level are fighting efforts to help the citizens of Flint.]

A group of Michigan musicians (and sympathetic out-of-staters) led by Baggage's Jonathan Diener are collaborating on an album to benefit FlintKids.org, which is the Flint Child Health and Development Fund--administered by the Community Foundation of Greater Flint--and will support local crisis response, optimal child health and development, early childhood education, educational and student support services, continuous access to a pediatric medical home, access to infant and child behavioral health services, nutrition education, healthy food access, safe and healthy home environments, integrated social services, and research. The Not Safe To Drink: Music for Flint Water Crisis Relief charity album--to be released on February 20, 2016--will feature over 50 bands (punk, alternative, metal, ska, and more) and is available to pre-order now (the minimum suggested donation is $5). Keep up on this project via the Not Safe to Drink Facebook page.

Ska fans will be interested to note that Big D and The Kids Table and J. Navarro and the Traitors (members of The Suicide Machines and 1592) have contributed tracks to this vital effort.

The 100,000 residents of Flint are our people (they're fellow Americans and fellow human beings)--they're us. And they need our help. So, please consider donating to Not Safe To Drink: Music for Flint Water Crisis Relief! If we join together, we can make a difference!

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Winter/Spring 2016 NYC Ska Calendar #20

All this Scratching is making me itch.
Saturday, February 6, 2016 @ 8:00 pm

The London Souls (doing a tribute to Bob Marley in honor of his birthday), Ticklah, Dub is a Weapon (15th anniversary!)

Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$20/21+

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Saturday, February 13, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

Hub City Stompers, Rude Boy George, Duffy's Cut

The Grand Victory
245 Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY
$12/21+

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016 @ 8:00 pm

Seratones, The Snails, The Winstons, CVS at Night

Shea Stadium
20 Meadow Street
Brooklyn, NY
$10 in advance/$20 day of show
All ages

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Sunday, February 21, 2016 @ 8:00 pm

Nan Pancha, Los Estramboticos, The Ladrones

Stage 48
605 West 48th Street
New York, NY
$35/21+

+ + + +

Saturday, February 27, 2016 at 9:30 pm

Rude Boy George, Rachel and the Black Straps, Mind Over Time

Arlene's Grocery
95 Stanton Street
New York, NY
$10/21+

+ + + +

Wednesday, March 9, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

Less Than Jake (playing Losing Streak and more), Westbound Train, Mephiskapheles

Highline Ballroom
431 West 16th Street
New York, NY
All ages
Tix: $14.50

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Thursday, March 10, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

Less Than Jake (playing Hello Rockview and more), Bigwig, Mickey Erg

The Gramercy Theater
127 East 23rd Street
New York, NY
All ages
Tix: $20

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Friday, March 11, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

Mephiskapheles and Special Guests

The Grand Victory
245 Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY $20/21+

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Saturday, April 2, 2016 @ 8:00 pm

The Slackers (Record Release Party)

The Bell House
149 7th Street
Brooklyn, NY
$20/21+

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Friday, April 8, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

Iration, Hirie, The Expanders
Webster Hall
125 East 11th Street
New York, NY
18+

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Friday, April 15, 2016 @ 6:00 pm

Big D and the Kids Table, Counterpunch, The Doped Up Dollies, The Far East

Knitting Factory Brooklyn
361 Metropolitan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$13 in advance/$15 day of show
16+

+ + + +

Friday, April 29, 2016

Rent Party w/Rude Boy George

The Woodland
60 Woodland Road
Maplewood, NJ

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Mustard Plug, Rude Boy George

Bells Eccentric Cafe Back Room
355 East Kalamazoo Avenue
Kalamazoo, MI

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Saturday, May 14, 2016 @ 9:00 pm

Dubistry

The Shrine
2271 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard
New York, NY
No cover!
21+

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Mustard Plug, Rude Boy George

Founders Brewing Co.
235 Grandville Avenue SW
Grand Rapids, MI

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Ska bands: To have your NYC area gig dates listed here, send an email to duffguidetoska@gmail.com with all of the show details!

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

"Dance Craze" Trailer Hits the Net!

In case you missed it, the amazing 1950s-style trailer for "Dance Craze" is making the rounds on the internet today. While the film was shot in 1980, during the height of 2 Tone, and captures of these bands at their best, it had the misfortune to be released in British theaters in 1981--just as 2 Tone was flaming out--and it never reached a wide audience.



While the VHS "Dance Craze" was never issued in the USA, the film was given a limited release and shown in art house theaters in 1982.

The New York Times review of "Dance Craze" is definitely worth a read.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Bring Back Skappleton Kickstarter Campaign!

The people behind Skappleton (Appleton, Wisconsin's annual ska festival--founded 20 years ago--which has featured The Skatalites, Catch 22, Big D and the Kids Table, Mustard Plug, The Toasters, Bomb the Music Industry!, The Planet Smashers, Suburban Legends, and Deal’s Gone Bad) and the Midwest Ska Fest (in Chicago) are joining forces this year to present a two-day ska festival in both cities on August 13-14, 2016--and are running a modest Bring Back Skappleton Kickstarter campaign (goal: $1,800--and they're already at 50%) to pay for the Wisconsin venue and help cover production costs.

If you're in the Midwest and love your ska music, there are some great perks available at reasonable pledge levels, such as snagging weekend passes for both festivals now! The Bring Back Skappleton campaign ends on February 15, 2016, so if you're interested, pledge now.

Support live ska music in the heartland!

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MOJO Remembers Specials Drummer John Bradbury

From the February 2016 issue of Mojo Magazine.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Duff Guide to Ska's 2015 Year in Review, Part 4!

Buster and friends dancing in the streets!
(By Steve Shafer)

I'm still playing catch up on all the releases that I meant to review in 2015 (and I've been sick for the last week with something like the flu, but not the flu). So, here's the latest batch of my quick takes on great ska albums from 2015...

The Sidewalk Doctors: The Sidewalk Doctors digital album/limited edition CD (self-released through Bandcamp) -- Full disclosure: I feel really dumb for being so slow to catch onto The Sidewalk Doctors, despite all of the good word I've heard about this band from trusted sources (as well as noting guitarist Lenny Bignell's involvement in the Phoenix City Allstars and the recent Rhoda Dakar Sings The Bodysnatchers project). So, let me declare far and wide that London's The Sidewalk Doctors are a phenomenal ska/rocksteady group topped by powerfully soulful/bluesy vocals from Nathan Thomas--and this album is amongst my absolute favorites of 2015! Top tracks include the major ska groove and urgent restlessness/dissatisfaction in "Everybody's Looking" ("...for something better!")--which might just be my best-loved song of 2015--the unreserved and unabashed love and adoration (accompanied by 70s reggae strings and ice rink organ!) expressed in "You'll Be the Only One" ("You're my fairytale/My favorite work of art/You lift me up from the very darkest parts"); the haunting loss and debilitating emotional pain in the rocksteady song "In My Shoes" ("My bed's been empty far, far too long/Yet, the space beside me holds deathly harm/I look my demons dead straight in the eye/And another woman's solace ain't going to make me right/No one's calling me, shaking from the pain/One question still rings out loud/What would you do baby, if you were in my shoes?"); and the sad resignation/desperation of not being to escape the self-medicating that "keeps the demons at my feet" in the twitchy, Skatalites-like "This Life is Killing Me" (and the short, redeeming answer song, "Let It Rule," that follows it with the repeated refrain: "Oh, you've got to let it rule, where you find love!"--which is fleshed out on the record's shining final track, "Where There is Love"). This is an incredibly accomplished, confident, and brilliantly appealing album--and one that is not to be missed!

Various Artists: Pressure Drip limited edition blue cassette (Jump Up Records) -- A recent article on the history of Stomp Records reminded me of just how vital compilations were to the rise of ska in the late 1980s and early 1990s--putting local (NY Beat, Mash It Up, NYC Ska Live), regional (American SkathicCalifornia Skaquake), national (Ska FaceSkarmageddon), even international acts (Skankin' Round the World) on every ska fan's map--all during a time when any news about a ska band and their release was very difficult to come by (often only delivered via word-of-mouth or a skazine). From the '80s on, ska compilations certainly super-fueled my love of ska and turned me on to amazing bands all over the world. To some degree, I suppose the internet has made compilations less essential--information and music files flow so freely now--but the democratization of everything has made it harder and much more time-consuming to sort the wheat from the chaff (and what happened to all of those intrepid zine reviewers from the '90s--so few people actually write about ska music these days!). So, obviously, there's still a place for an edited or (I hesitate to use the word, as it's been hijacked in so many awful hipster-y ways) curated collection of songs for your consideration. In this instance, it's to promote acts that are associated with Jump Up (as opposed to a particular scene) and a ska coffee(!)--but what an incredible batch of bands are featured here, from all over the globe (look through this list of bands on the Pressure Drip comp)! Jump Up chief Chuck Wren is very selective about who he works with and the proof of his high standards is in these 23 impeccable tracks. I happen to be pretty familiar with all of these acts, but Pressure Drip properly introduced me to The Crombies (previously, I've only heard them on a single, doing two covers) and I can't wait to get my mitts on more of their music (the comp achieved its goal)! Lastly, even if you don't have a Walkman, boom box, or tape deck, you should own a copy of this cassette--it's a work of art in itself (illustration and design by the always amazing CHema Skandal) and highly collectable.

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Read The Duff Guide to Ska's Year in Review, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3!

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

NYC Winter 2016 Ska Calendar #19

Friday, January 22, 2016 @ 10:30 pm

Uzimon

Mercury Lounge
217 East Houston Street
New York, NY
$10/21+

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Saturday, January 23rd, 2016 @ 8:00 pm

Skarroneros' Sixth Anniversary show w/Gangway, Droogettes, Escasos Recursos

Don Pedro
90 Manhattan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
21+

+ + + +

Saturday, January 23, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

Inspecter 7, Out of Order, 45 Adaptors, Scum Punch

The Grand Victory
245 Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY
$15/21+

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Sunday, January 24, 2016 @ 6:00 pm

The Toasters, Hub City Stompers, Molly Rhythm, Death in the Arena, Backyard Superheroes, Autocracy East

The Backstage at Championship Bar
931 Chambers Street
Trenton, NJ
All ages
Tix: $13/$15

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Saturday, January 30, 2016 @ 3:00 pm

Beat Brigade, Damn Long Hairs, Sketchy, Girth Control

The Grand Victory
245 Grand Street
Brookyn, NY
$10/18+

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Monday, February 1, 2016 @ 6:00 pm

Brown Rice Family, Super Yamba Band

Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$8/21+

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Saturday, February 6, 2016 @ 8:00 pm

The London Souls (doing a tribute to Bob Marley in honor of his birthday), Ticklah, Dub is a Weapon (15th anniversary!)

Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$20/21+

+ + + +

Saturday, February 13, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

Hub City Stompers, Rude Boy George, Duffy's Cut

The Grand Victory
245 Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY
$12/21+

+ + + +

Sunday, February 21, 2016 @ 8:00 pm

Nan Pancha, Los Estramboticos, The Ladrones

Stage 48
605 West 48th Street
New York, NY
$35/21+

+ + + +

Saturday, February 27, 2016 at 9:30 pm

Rude Boy George, Rachel & the Black Straps, Mind Over Time

Arlene's Grocery
95 Stanton Street
New York, NY
$10/21+

+ + + +

Wednesday, March 9, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

Less Than Jake (playing Losing Streak and more), Westbound Train, Mephiskapheles

Highline Ballroom
431 West 16th Street
New York, NY
All ages
Tix: $14.50

+ + + +

Thursday, March 10, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

Less Than Jake (playing Hello Rockview and more), Bigwig, Mickey Erg

The Gramercy Theater
127 East 23rd Street
New York, NY
All ages
Tix: $20

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Thursday, March 10, 2016 @ 9:30 pm

The Snails

Mercury Lounge
217 East Houston Street
New York, NY
$12/21+

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Friday, March 11, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

Mephiskapheles and Special Guests

The Grand Victory
245 Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY$20/21+

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Saturday, April 2, 2016 @ 8:00 pm

The Slackers (Record Release Party)

The Bell House
149 7th Street
Brooklyn, NY
$20/21+

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Friday, April 15, 2016 @ 6:00 pm

Big D and the Kids Table, Counterpunch, The Doped Up Dollies, The Far East

Knitting Factory Brooklyn
361 Metropolitan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$13 in advance/$15 day of show
16+

+ + + +

Friday, April 29, 2016

Rent Party w/Rude Boy George

The Woodland
60 Woodland Road
Maplewood, NJ

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Mustard Plug, Rude Boy George

Bells Eccentric Cafe Back Room
355 East Kalamazoo Avenue
Kalamazoo, MI

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Mustard Plug, Rude Boy George

Founders Brewing Co.
235 Grandville Avenue SW
Grand Rapids, MI

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Duff Guide to Post-Punk: In Remembrance of David Bowie

David Bowie in NYC by Jimmy King.
(By Steve Shafer)

Last Friday, during a segment on NPR about the release of David Bowie's 25th album Blackstar (issued on his 69th birthday, January 8, 2016)--which I was looking forward to hearing, as I'd absolutely loved his previous record, The Next Day (2013)--the reviewer noted that Bowie's career spanned over 50 years, just a year or two longer than I've been alive. He's been with me and you for all of our lives--so much so that I thought he would live forever.

Groggily listening to a Marketplace segment last Monday morning on NPR about Bowie's past business dealings, I panicked when I though that I heard at the end of the piece that Bowie had died. How was this possible? He had just released an album a few days ago, I thought to myself, as if that act could fend off one's mortality. I turned on CBS This Morning for confirmation and it was the lead story. Shocked (and with memories in my head of how I learned of John Lennon's assassination the first thing the next morning), I woke up my son (in my defense, he had to get up for school anyway) and broke the terrible news. His almost sobbed response was, "That's horrible!" And he then pulled the blanket over his head. Like I wanted to do to myself.

I can remember being introduced to his music in third grade in 1975. My best friend's older sister loved Bowie and Ziggy Stardust, Pin Ups, Aladdin Sane, and Diamond Dogs (as well as Lou Reed's Transformer, produced by Bowie) were always leaning up against their family's stereo cabinet in their living room with the green shag carpeting (because of these records, I'd forever associate rock'n'roll and its progeny with theatricality and reinvention). We'd put on Bowie's albums and listen to them while playing Stratego, Battleship, and Sorry or closely examine the LP sleeves for hints as to what each record and David Bowie were all about. Even at nine years of age, Bowie's glam androgynous look didn't phase me one bit--it was a cool, outrageous part of his act and, no doubt, helped shape my tendency to be tolerant and accepting of people's difference.

In high school, Bowie came back into view in the early days of MTV (which I had to catch at my friend Johnny's house in Inwood, in upper Manhattan, since we didn't have MTV yet in Yonkers) with the extraordinary "Ashes to Ashes" video (with that bulldozer on the beach looming over Bowie done up as Pagliacci), his collaboration with Queen on "Under Pressure," and the "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" duet with Bing Crosby shown around Christmastime. And then there was the massive Let's Dance album, which completely dominated radio and MTV during the summer of 1983 with three enormous, inescapable hit singles: "Let's Dance," "Modern Love," and "China Girl." (Like the Pat Benatar girl in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," there was a girl at my school who styled herself after Bowie and always wore the same gaucho hat as he did in this photo.) I played tracks off Let's Dance at the parties we held at friend's houses in Yonkers and Riverdale, and soon picked up the ChangesOneBowie and ChangesTwoBowie compilations on vinyl, which I copied onto cassette to play on my Sony Walkman to keep me going when I'd go for night-time runs up and down Rumsey Road (side two of ChangesOneBowie really helped me keep my up pace as I tried to stay in shape for cross country and track). Right after college, Rykodisc reissued Bowie's back catalogue on CD (with loads of bonus tracks), which I delved into deeply, discovering all sorts of amazing cuts that I never caught/knew about the first time around (like the Velvet Underground-appropriating "Queen Bitch").

Of course, Bowie greatly influenced countless musicians who would go on to make the new wave/post-punk era (my absolute favorite period in the history of music!) so completely fantastic. In the first half of the '80s, Bowie's songs from the '70s--god, there were so many good ones like "Golden Years," "DJ," "Hang On To Yourself," "Rebel Rebel," "Aladdin Sane," "Sound and Vision," "Heroes," and so many more!--fit in almost seamlessly with the new wave soundtrack running through my head, playing on WLIR, and spinning on my turntable. Sub-genres like goth, synthpop, and the New Romantics simply would not have existed without Bowie and his constant musical experimentation in the 1970s. Don't believe me? Check out musicians as varied as Ian McCullough, Paul Weller, Gary Numan, Vince Clark, Nick Rhodes, Jim Kerr, Andy McCluskey, Billy Bragg, Holly Johnson, and more noting their fave Bowie albums and acknowledging his influence on them and their music.

I've spent a great portion of the last two days reading about Bowie (and always learning new things!), listening to songs from throughout his astonishing career, and even seeing some of his music videos for the first time ("Loving the Alien," "Blue Jean," and "Jump They Say"), which were always fantastically inventive and compelling. In a way, it's honoring his work and life, but also processing my memories of how his music was entwined with the momentous and banal moments of our lives--but it's also mourning that there will be no more of it to come.

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Watch the incredible video for David Bowie's "Lazarus," which is his last gift to us.

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David Bowie's New York Times obituary

David Bowie's Guardian obituary

Read critical, track-by-track commentary on every one of Bowie's songs at Pushing Ahead of the Dame.

Read "Listening to David Bowie" at the New York Times.

Read Trouser Press' entry on David Bowie.

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Saturday, January 9, 2016

"Unstoppable: An Oral History of Stomp Records"

Noisey has just posted a terrific piece on a certain indie Canadian ska label that's still going strong and now celebrating their 20th anniversary (!): "Unstoppable: An Oral History of Stomp Records." Matt Collyer of The Planet Smashers (and founder of Stomp) and Chris Murray (King Apparatus), who produced the first Planet Smashers album, provide great insight into the rise (and continued success) of Stomp and the Canadian ska scene. It's a great read!