Tuesday, November 24, 2015

MOJO and Vive Le Rock! Give "Rhoda Dakar Sings The Bodysnatchers" Rave Reviews!

If you still haven't gotten around to picking up the phenomenal Rhoda Dakar Sings The Bodysnatchers album (Phoenix City Records/Cherry Red), perhaps the glowing reviews for this release published in the latest issues of MOJO and Vive Le Rock! will motivate you (though, I'm not sure why The Duff Guide to Ska review didn't convince you already!).

In the December 2015 issue of MOJO (with Elvis Costello on the cover), reviewer Lois Wilson gives the album four stars and notes that "she continues to uphold the 2 Tone tradition, making listeners think ("Easy Life" tackles gender inequality; "Hiawatha" calls for racial harmony) as well as dance (with skanking covers of "007" and "Let's Do the Rocksteady")."

Andy Pearl, in issue #30 of Vive Le Rock! (with Killing Joke on the cover), rates the album 8 out of 10 and declares that "original songs like "Private Eye" and "Mixed Feeling"...demonstrate that this was a band who had their own identity away from the dance craze. What was originally a one-off project has been met with such support and enthusiasm that Dakar has started to play a few gigs showcasing these songs again and maybe, finally, the Bodysnatchers will start to get their rightful recognition."

This issue of Vive Le Rock! also contains a lovely remembrance of the late Rico Rodriguez.

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The Rhoda Dakar Sings The Bodysnatchers CD/LP is available through her shop, which also offers Bodysnatchers t-shirts!

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Duff Guide to Post-Punk Gig Review: Public Image Ltd. at The PlayStation Theater, NYC, on 11/16/15!

John Lydon and PiL telling it like it is.
Editor's note: Forgive me that I'm breaking with my mission to cover ska here, but as you many have realized, I'm a massive fan of new wave and post-punk, and may occasionally cover a bit more of those genres here in the future. Yes, it muddies the waters a bit, but everything in my life is a bit messy. Ignore this post if you only want ska. 

"An Evening with Public Image Ltd."
PlayStation Theater, Times Square, New York

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Following the barbaric terrorist attacks on Paris just a few days earlier, it was probably prudent that the heavy security measures one had to go through in order to enter the Public Image Ltd. show had been enacted. Every concertgoer received 1) a full-body pat down, 2) had a metal detector run over their arms, legs, and torso, and 3) their bags, if any, were thoroughly searched (afterwards, I felt like I should have been locating my departure gate). But waiting that night on the long line to enter the venue with all of the graying and stout forty- and fifty-something PiL fans (and a smattering of young punks!)--with all of the Times Square tourists swirling around us (who had no idea who PiL were when they asked what we were queued up for)--and then going through the airport-style security, it all felt somewhat absurd and surreal, like we had lost our bearings (fear of possible attack wasn't usually part of the equation). We were gathered there for the music, perhaps a message, and certainly for a bit a fun with our friends (as were our compatriots at the Bataclan...). It never crossed my mind not to go see PiL, but the mass murder in Paris had imposed new meaning on attending their show that night. Yet, I doubt that it was anyone's primary intention for it to be an act of defiance (though, more on that later).

Did some of us feel guilt or shame to be participating in the same, seemingly innocent type of event that resulted in so many people being killed? Perhaps. (Guilt washed over me while I was waiting on line, watching the Times Square news ticker displaying the latest, horrific updates from Paris...) I suppose the indiscriminate slaughter of music fans and cafe-goers was meant to cow all of us in Europe and America into giving up the pleasure of going out with friends to a gig or for a drink and a bite to eat--the fun stuff that unites us and strengthens our bonds with each other. So, the only rational response for the average person living in a free society is to keep on doing these things--to ensure that they continue to be possible, even in uncertain times. And that's just what we all did, consciously or not.

The PlayStation Theater is in the sub-basement of an ugly, behemoth of an office building, which houses MTV and Viacom (and explained the music industry-types I encountered at the bar). When I descended the long staircase and entered the actual concert hall (which was comprised of two open, dance floor levels and a balcony with theater seating), it dawned on me that I'd been in this venue once before, when it was the former Loews Astor movie theater. The last time I had been there was in 1977, when I was eleven, to see "Star Wars" for the first time (shown on a 70mm print!). Mind blown, then and now.

There was no opening act for PiL, but plenty of fantastic dub reggae pumping out of the PA, no doubt selected by John Lydon (AKA Johnny Rotten), who's been a huge, very knowledgeable reggae fan since his teens. The 2,100-capacity theater was nearly full when Lydon and his PiL bandmates--Lu Edmonds (Mekons, Damned) on guitar, Scott Firth (Elvis Costello, The Spice Girls!) on bass, and Bruce Smith (Pop Group, Slits) on drums--hit the stage for two hours of completely blistering and mesmerizing post-punk/dance-rock. To be honest, I never expected it to have been this good.

Ever the sharp provocateur, Lydon--at almost 60 (!)--gave one of the most animated, funny, engaging, and compelling performances I've ever seen. Not one moment was phoned in; he gave it his all throughout the entire set, like it was the only gig that would ever matter (how exactly can his voice survive night after night of this?!). Madly gesturing, mugging, and making eye contact with seemingly everyone in the crowd, Lydon caterwauled, bellowed, spit out, and sang (as only he does) gleefully defiant songs challenging convention, power, and authority (more on that later), on tracks ranging from PiL's first single in 1978 ("Public Image") through key selections from their new 2015 album, What the World Needs Now... (released on their own PiL label). And it seemed like every song was presented in its expansive 12 inch version, long enough for us to fully inhabit it--to become transfixed by the rhythm section's Rock of Gibraltar-solid grooves and Edmonds' slashes of (what else?) angular post-punk guitar, so Lydon could have all the time he needed to convey his voluminous thoughts on a particular subject. ("Religion" must have been about 10 or 12 minutes long--I watched the first five minutes, then went off to empty my bladder, and returned in time for the last few minutes of the song and its theatrics: The very Jesus-like Edmonds was presented as the Son of God, while Firth played the Devil.)

Fairly early in the set, during a fantastic rendition of "This is Not Love Song," Lydon bitingly (and somewhat outrageously) commented (to loud cheers), "Sommme people cancel concerts--weeee never cancel concerts!" It was a cheeky piss-take on U2 and their cancelled Paris show, diminished a bit by the relative safety of our perch, way over on this side of the Atlantic. Nonetheless, it endeared PiL to the fans and was an acknowledgement of the unusual context of the evening (plus, it a was a tweak of Bono's nose!).

Almost half of their 15-song set was filled with new tracks from What the World Needs Now...--and in their live permutations, they fit in seamlessly with much of PiL's older hits. I particularly liked "Double Trouble," "Bettie Page" (about our repressed, but sex-obsessed American society), "Corporate," and a positively menacing "Shoom" (which was so much better realized live than on its recording). Of the tracks they performed from PiL's back catalogue, "The Body" (1987) was the ferocious highlight of the bunch, with the crowd singing along with the backing vocals, as Lydon wailed above us. (I've always thought "The Body" to be one of PiL's most perfect/catchy post-punk dance songs, one that recognizes society's oftentimes predatory sexual pursuit of women, but advocates responsibility--parents must raise children who will grow up to be good, decent human beings, which includes teaching them to use birth control--shades of "Too Much Too Young"--to avoid unwanted pregnancies and abortions!).

In particular, organized religion and tech/social media companies came under searing attack. The best line in "Religion" was, "Why should I call you father? You're not my Daddy!" And before "Corporate" began, Lydon sincerely (!) implored us to remember that, "Weeee are the one, all of us!" (as he pointed around the room in an inclusive, circular motion)--before ranting about how all of our devices and social media have effectively killed off ("Murderer!") real human relationships/interaction (and our capacity for empathy) and replaced communities with sham connections that serve to separate/divide us and bring out our very worst instincts ("Not global villages/But one globe/Not itty bitty little villages/of pity and learning how to/survive in the 21st century/And looking at World War III/Because all humans seem to hate humanity"). Indeed, the message between the lines this evening was that institutions are suspect, but that we do belong to--and have a responsibility for--each other (in the recent Vive Le Rock #30, Lydon states, "I like the idea of a caring society. Guess what? I became an American citizen because of Obama; he promised Obamacare and delivered on it.").

The final track before the encore was "Shoom," with its chorus of, "What the world needs now is...Fuck off!" and a fantastic, pulsing bass line (the chorus of the song is, presumably, a take on the 1965 Hal David/Burt Bacharach pop song "What the World Needs Now is Love," which was a hit for Jackie DeShannon that same year). It took us all a little while to catch on that Lydon wanted us to do the "Fuck off" part of the chorus, when he dangled the microphone and stand over the audience, like a mad boom operator. Eventually, we got it and heartily shouted our expletives (in a song chock full of them!). Lydon doesn't presume to have the answers to the host of global and personal problems that we're all facing. He most certainly thinks you should think up your own solutions. But he also firmly believes that you should call out anything and everything that is false--"bollocks"! (God forbid, you try to fool him: "Do you think that/You can play me/Do you think that/You can sway me...I'm working class, me/Right at the start/I'm horse and cart, me/Right in the heart/Four to the floor, beat/Grove in the heat/I'm always complete/I come from the street!")

The encore consisted of a spirited, yet somewhat ragged, "Public Image"--which elicited a massive roar of approval from the audience--and everyone sang along to the Irish blessing chorus of PiL's oblique but phenomenal 1986 anti-South African apartheid hymn "Rise." (It should be noted that the lyric,"Anger is an energy" is not a call to riot; Lydon also explains in Vive Le Rock #30 that after he contracted spinal meningitis as a young boy, the illness, "also took my memories for four years and that was a very long, slow process to regain my personality, to regain my life, and that's where the concept of "anger is an energy" comes from. The doctors were advised to not make life easy for me, to keep me angry, to spur the memories back...For me, "anger" has never been a violent thing, it doesn't represent hate or anything like that. Anger to me is a very positive force in my life. When I had the opportunity to use it the song "Rise," that is what I was trying to explain. But I never fully developed on it to an audience. I just hoped that people would pick up on it...It is an anthem. It's about hope. It's a hope-filled song. It doesn't preach violence or hate. It's odd that people think that. I've never preached those things. Unless it's against institutions; I hate them. Not people. There is a difference.")

When Lydon had sung his final, triumphant "Anger is an energy" and the lights came up, the crowd stayed put and applauded and cheered for at least a full five minutes, possibly more. What we had witnessed and experienced was so extraordinary, that we couldn't permit PiL to leave the stage so quickly. (Did we need time to process all that had take place--a moment to transition back to our normal lives?) Lydon was visibly touched by the reaction and thanked us all repeatedly. Before he finally exited the stage, Lydon waved his arm across the audience, pointed and stared at a wide swath of us, and slowly said, "I see all of you."

And I believe he did.

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PiL's set list, New York City, 11/16/15

"Double Trouble"
"Know Now"
"This Is Not a Love Song"
"Bettie Page"
"Deeper Water"
"Death Disco"
"The One"
"The Body"

"Public Image"

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Checkerboard Kids' 20th Anniversary Show Video in All Its Glory!

I haven't had the time to watch it all yet, but here is the video from the Checkerboard Kids' 20th Anniversary show (which I think is actually airing tonight on NYC Time Warner cable)!

Bands/musicians featured in this NYC-area all-star ska celebration of this amazing and wonderfully unique public access cable show include Across the Aisle, Metro Stylee, Mike Drance (The Bluebeats), Coolie Ranx and Vinny Nobile (Pilfers, Bim Skala Bim), Buford O' Sullivan (The Scofflaws, Easy Star All Stars), Roy Radics (The Rudie Crew), Brendog and Jerica Rosenblum (Mephiskapheles/Doomsday), Dubistry, Dave Barry (The Toasters, Beat Brigade), Bob Timm (The Hard Times), Carmelo DiBartolo (Beat Brigade), and more!

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If you missed it, check out the recent Duff Guide to Ska interview with Checkerboard Phil!

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

NYC Fall/Winter 2015 Ska Calendar #15

Rude Boy George opens for Mustard Plug (despised by Maroon 5!)
at the Knitting Factory Brooklyn this Friday night!
Friday, November, 13, 2015 @ 7:00 pm

Mustard Plug, Survay Says, Rude Boy George

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

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Thursday, November 19, 2015 @ 6:00 pm

Five Iron Frenzy, The Toasters, Survay Says

The Stanhope House
45 Main Street
Stanhope, NJ
$20/All Ages

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Friday, November 20, 2015 @ 7:00 pm

Five Iron Frenzy, The Toasters, Survay Says

Santos Party House
96 Lafayette Street
New York, NY
$20 in advance/$25 day of show

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Wednesday, December 18, 2015

HR (of Bad Brains), Dubb Agents, Banddroidz, Skarroneros

Bowery Electric
327 Bowery
New York, NY

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Saturday, December 19, 2015 @ 7:00 pm

The Slackers and The Pietasters

Irving Plaza
17 Irving Place
New York, NY

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Rico, Rhoda Dakar, Prince Buster, and Georgie Fame in the November 2015 MOJO!

Given that a good deal of its music coverage is historic in nature and aimed at the middle-aged music fan (I'm guilty as charged--I'm smack-dab in their demographic!), MOJO is always pretty good about including news, features, and reviews relating to 2 Tone-era bands (and, to a lesser degree, the Jamaican originators). Their latest edition is a good case in point.

November's issue contains an excellent obituary for/tribute to Rico Rodriguez (who died on September 4, 2015) by reggae expert David Katz. Rico and Prince Buster also figure into a feature on 60s mod hero Georgie Fame, who performed a heady mix of rhythm and blues, soul, jazz, ska, and pop in London's  jazz clubs--and, of particular note to ska fans, in 1963, Fame played his Hammond organ on Prince Buster's I Feel the Spirit LP, the first ska album released outside of Jamaica. (I never knew much about Fame--inexplicably, he never broke big in the USA--but just ordered this incredible compilation of his 60s work and am looking forward to getting to know his recordings much better...)

The Bodysnatchers' Rhoda Dakar is spotlighted in MOJO's regular "Hello Goodbye" feature, in which musicians tell their story of how they came to join a band and then how they left it (willingly or not!). Ms. Dakar is promoting the Phoenix City/Cherry Red Records release of her stellar Rhoda Dakar Sings The Bodysnatchers album (The Duff Guide to Ska review of the Pledge Music version of this release can be read here; the only difference in these releases is that the Phoenix City/Cherry Red edition contains lots of archival photos and essential, new, lengthy liner notes by Rhoda herself). Ms. Dakar has also been performing live this fall--read a review of her excellent Halloween show at Camden's Jazz Cafe in Louder Than War (The Specials' Lynval Golding played on some songs!). All fans of 2 Tone should have her album. And if you're in the UK, make sure to get to one of her gigs!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Duff Review: Radio Riddler and UB40 featuring Ali Campbell, Astro, and Mickey Virtue at NYC's Webster Hall on 10/28/15

Also known as the old Ritz, the first venue UB40 ever played in NYC.
(By Steve Shafer)

Based on my experience seeing the other version of UB40 at BB King's a few years ago (read The Duff Guide to Ska review of that show here), my expectation was that the crowd for the UB40 featuring Ali, Astro, and Mickey gig at Webster Hall earlier this week would have been filled mostly with forty-something, former-WLIR listeners like myself (that legendary, Long Island-based new wave station gave UB40 an extraordinary amount of support and airplay during the first half of the 1980s, creating a huge and loyal fan-base for them in NYC and its suburbs). And I certainly didn't think the show would be sold out. But when my good friend Adam Monkey and I made our way up to the Grand Ballroom (capacity 1,500), we found ourselves in a sea of people of all ages--shiny twenty year-olds to more weathered fans in their 40s and 50s, who--back in the day--had seen the intact UB40 performing every summer at the outdoor Miller High Life Concerts on Pier 84 on the Hudson River. There were also a fair number of British expats--I ran into a bunch of them at the bar and talked to a few next to me in the audience (at one point, I smelled something burning and was looking all around me for the source; the older Brit in back of me told me that I should expect a lot of smoking at a UB40 concert--I smiled and replied that I was used to that, but thought I had smelled someone's hair on fire).

I was eager to see openers Radio Ridder, who were said to be performing their reggae version of Prince's Purple Rain. Their take on that iconic album, Purple Reggae, is pretty phenomenal (read The Duff Guide to Ska review of Purple Reggae here) and fans apparently have been loving it on this tour--RR Frank Benbini noted from the stage that they'd already sold out of CDs halfway through the tour, as he threw the last few promo copies out to the fans (he also commented that Prince had been pretty pissed-off when he found out about their project and had received many pointed phone calls from his lawyer). Radio Riddler played six songs off the album--"Let's Go Crazy," "Take Me With You," "I Would Die 4 U," "Purple Rain" (videos of these are below), "Darling Nikki," and "When Doves Cry." All were really good to great (their extended rendition of "When Doves Cry" was the highlight of their set--I wished I had videotaped it for you!) and they were enthusiastically received by the audience. I have to admit to being a little disappointed that Radio Riddler didn't surprise us with any special guest singers (their album features appearances by Suggs from Madness, Sinead O'Connor, and others, including Ali Campbell on "Purple Rain"--I'm not sure why he didn't grace the stage for at least part of this song; the place would have exploded) and they used backing, pre-recorded tracks throughout (there was no drummer or bass player). I realize that economic factors are in play for opening acts, but a full band would have given Radio Riddler's set even more power, drive, and urgency. Having said all that, I really enjoyed their set and whole-heartedly recommend catching them if they come your way.

I'll admit to losing UB40's thread after Rat in Mi Kitchen (which is one of my favorite UB40 albums), when they released all of those Labor of Love compilations during the 1990s. They recaptured my attention years later with their excellent Who You Fighting For? (2005) and Twentyfourseven (2008) albums (where they re-engaged with the world and wrote/recorded several sharply political songs). So, it was a bit of a shock when these groups of young women near me (and throughout the venue) started screaming the second Ali Campbell stepped up to the mic. And then they continued to sing along loudly and happily to song after song. That's when it dawned on me that this version of UB40 was going to be focused on delivering their pop cover hits (indeed, a great deal of their set was drawn from 1989's massive-seller, Labor of Love II--and the album they're promoting on this tour is a Greatest Hits Live compilation), instead of their stellar original, and oftentimes sharply political, tracks. But pop songs or not, the Ali/Astro/Mickey iteration of UB40 (expertly backed by a full band and horn section, including a back-up singer who looked like Dr. Ring Ding and a sax player who reminded me of The Beat's Saxa!) packed a considerable punch and put on one hell of a fun show for the grooving, sweaty masses. Their set included fan (and commercial radio) favorites (Al Green's) "Here I Am (Come and Take Me)," (The Chi-Lites') "Homely Girl," (The Paragon's) "Wear You to the Ball," (John Holt's version of Shep and the Limelite's) "Stick by Me," (Lord Creator's) "Kingston Town," (Smokey Robinson's) "The Way You Do The Things You Do," (Charles and Eddie's) "Would I Lie To You?," (Eric Donaldson's) "Cherry Oh Baby," and (Boy Friday's) "Version Girl."

They also played several great songs off Ali's 2014 album Silhouettewhich he recorded with Astro and Mickey: (a fantastic arrangement of Lionel Ritchie's tribute to Marvin Gaye sung by Diana Ross) "Missing You," (Dennis Brown's super version of The Rays') "Silhouette" (which I though was "cigarette"!), and Astro's "Cyber Bully Boys," which apparently is about the guys in the other UB40. The only time they reached deep into their back-catalogue was for brilliant renditions of two outstanding originals: "Rat in Mi Kitchen" (which I haven't see them do live since, gulp, 1985!) and the ferocious anti-Thatcher indictment, "One in Ten" (videos are below; sorry about the poor sound--it wasn't great in the venue).

An hour-and-a-half into their set, we had to jet--it was a work night and I don't exactly bounce back from a night of drinking beer like I used to--but the band and fans were still going strong (and UB40 hadn't played "Red Red Wine" yet). I really enjoyed their show, but wished that they had dialed back the number of (admittedly popular) covers in favor of more of their original material. Yet, they had given the people what they wanted. It was an evening for reveling in familiar and treasured reggae pop songs--and everyone had a blast. And I have to remind the contrarian in me that there's nothing wrong with that.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Duff Preview: UB40 (Ali Campbell, Astro, Mickey Virtue) and Radio Riddler at NYC's Webster Hall, Wednesday, October 28, 2015

One of the two current versions of UB40 is playing Webster Hall in New York City Wednesday night, backed by Radio Riddler, who will be performing their own set (rumored to consist of their wonderful reggae versions of Prince's Purple Rain; check out my review of Radio Riddler's Purple Reggae album here). I had the amazing fortune to see the Ali Campbell-less UB40 at BB Kings in 2010 (read my review of that performance here), so I'm eager to see/hear what this incarnation is like!

Since a deluxe reissue of Present Arms is scheduled for a release in February 2016, I hope they'll play a few cuts from it; I prefer my UB40 songs with a political edge to them (read my appreciation of Present Arms here).

It'll probably be an older crowd (those who were teens in the first half of the 1980s), jonesing on some of that sweet nostalgia to (temporarily) erase some of the accumulated years. But all fans of ska and reggae should come! It should be a fun night with some great tunes! (Tix can be had here.)

NYC Ska Halloween Weekend Ska Gigs!

While I'm going to resist the urge to bastardize the English language by combining ska with the proper name of a holiday (secular or not), I'm happy to point out that there are many great ska gigs in NYC that you can attend this Halloween weekend--featuring some of the best bands our scene has to offer! (Why not make it to all of them--details on all of the shows are at the bottom of this post!)

I can't imagine a more appropriate ska band than Mephiskapheles to see when celebrating Devil's Night; they'll be at the Mercury Lounge this Friday night along with Hub City Stompers, 45 Adaptors, and, ahem, Hymen Holocaust.

On Saturday, once you're decked out in your brilliant costume for Halloween, if you have an affinity for ska and new wave, get yourself down to Toshi's in Manhattan to see Rude Boy George. Or if your tastes run more purist (or after catching one of Rude Boy George's sets), check out the Witch Dance at The Kimberlye Project in Brooklyn featuring The Frightnrs, The Far East, and selectors Grace of Spades, and Jah Point/Mush One featuring Screechy Dan.

Then, on Sunday (All Souls Day), after you've had a chance to recover, head to Brooklyn Bowl to catch Brown Rice Family and the Brooklyn Attractors.

NYC Ska Halloween Weekend Ska Gigs!

Friday, October 30, 2015 @ 8:00 pm

Devil's Night with Mephiskapheles, Hub City Stompers, 45 Adaptors, Hymen Holocaust

Mercury Lounge
217 East Houston Street
New York, NY
$20 in advance/$25 day of show

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Saturday, October 31, 2015 @ 7:00 pm

Halloween Party w/Rude Boy George

Toshi's Living Room and Penthouse
1141 Broadway (at 26th Street)
New York, NY
No cover!

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Saturday, October 31, 2015 @ 9:00 pm

Tea Factory Sounds and Love So Nice present the 7th Annual Witch Dance!

The Far East and The Frightnrs, with selections by Grace of Spades, Jah Point (Shockwave Sound, Rudies Don't Care) and Mush One (Al Paragus HQ) featuring Screechy Dan!

The Kimberlye Project
1332 Atlantic Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

Ital Food
Doors at 9:00 pm

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Sunday, November 1, 2015 @ 6:00 pm

Brown Rice Family (9:30 pm), Brooklyn Attractors (8:00 pm)

Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

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Update (10/29/15): I've just learned that the Rude Boy George show at Toshi's on Halloween was cancelled--and I'm bummed by that bit of news. Having said that, make sure to catch them at FTC's Stage One in Fairfield, CT on 11/4/15 with The Skatalites and/or on 11/13/15 at the Knitting Factory Brooklyn with Mustard Plug and Survey Says!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Duff Review: The Selecter "Access All Areas"

Edsel Records

(Review by Steve Shafer)

The Selecter's Access All Areas documents the band's August 13, 1980 fantastic performance at Nottingham's Theatre Royale (with The Swinging Cats as openers, though they do not appear on the DVD or CD), which had been videotaped for ITV's "Rockstage" TV series. Of particular note, it was a transitional time for the band, even though they had just returned from a largely successful, if not exhausting, tour of the USA and Canada that April, which included a week of sold-out shows at the Whiskey A Go Go in LA, a gig at NYC's Hurrah's attended by a dancing Mick Jagger, and radio support from Rodney Bingenheimer at at KROQ and college radio stations across the land. However, according to Pauline Black's autobiography "Black by Design," they also experienced a shocking amount of racism in the South--such as being refused service at truck stop diners and threatened with great bodily harm when they stopped for a picture in front of the "Dallas" TV show's Southfork Ranch--and their songs were hardly played on commercial radio, which in 1980 was still largely divided between black and white audiences and black and white radio stations--"musical apartheid," she called it.

The Selecter had just departed 2 Tone Records in July (essentially, over disagreements concerning the future direction of the label that they co-managed with The Specials, and how out of control the whole 2 Tone craze had become--the massive amount of bootleg 2 Tone and cluelessly misspelled "Selector" merchandise was a particularly sore point)--and, also that July, had recorded their first single for their own intentionally unnamed Chrysalis imprint: "The Whisper" b/w The Ethiopians' "Train to Skaville" (sadly "The Whisper" was the last time the band hit the UK charts--at #36 in August of 1980). Sporting only the band's logo and a large question mark, the "Train to Skaville" 12" included a version of "Street Feeling" produced by Roger Lomas, recorded during the session that had yielded the "On My Radio" and "Too Much Pressure" singles; "Street Feeling" had ended up being re-recorded for The Selecter's debut album with another producer, but Neol Davies, according to this CD's liner notes, was never satisfied with that version and was pleased to see its release here. And plans were in place to enter the studio again in late August with Roger Lomas to begin recording what would be their incredible second album, Celebrate the Bullet.

A still from the "Access All Areas" DVD.
But as various members of The Selecter were putting their final touches on their new songs for Celebrate (Davies wrote five of the tracks, Black composed three, Compton Amanor penned two, and Gaps Hendrickson one), they were scheduled to perform live at Nottingham's Theatre Royale for "Rockstage" before what appears to be an electrified and sold-out crowd. While the audio recording of this performance could have been more robust (and it's a shame that it's not better, since The Selecter are so good here), the film of their show--shot using multiple cameras all over the stage--is an essential document of the 2 Tone-era (the only other opportunity I've had to witness the original version of The Selecter live is via their disjointed Dance Craze clips). Clearly, The Selecter were in peak condition at this point in their career (which makes what was soon to transpire all the more tragic). Their intense, sweat-drenched, high-energy performance--the whole band is dancing throughout the entire set--is an awesome thing to behold, even 35 years on. This is one hell of a concert film (and it must have been amazing to have seen it live; at points, the camera pans across the audience on the floor and then up to the theater's three balconies--everyone in the crowd is dancing like mad)!

The poster for The Selecter's Theatre Royale gig.
Their set list draws upon the familiar and terrific material from Too Much Pressure and "The Whisper" single, but there are some thrilling, standout renditions here, including "Street Feeling," "Black and Blue," "On My Radio," "They Make Me Mad," and Gaps' brilliant showcase, "Too Much Pressure" (which captures their staged, but seemingly real fighting that I've only read about until now--it's kind of shocking to see him grab keyboardist Desmond Brown by the neck and shake him!). For their last song--their revved up version of "Train to Skaville"--Pauline invites some of the crowd up to dance on stage with the band and about 15 kids (and I mean kids--one looks about 10 years-old; the rest barely teenagers; and since The Selecter were primarily a black band, there are a good number of black kids dancing on stage and in the audience) take her up on the offer. It's amazing to see how sharply dressed they are, too--either in tonic suits or Harrington jackets and Fred Perry shirts (the mod-ish 10 year-old kid is in a fishtail parka)! American ska fans at all the shows I've been to since the 80s have never looked this good; we're perfect slobs compared to the youth of 2 Tone!

Barely a week and a half after the "Rockstage" taping, both Desmond Brown (keys) and Charley Anderson (bass) were out of The Selecter (Desmond had quit, Charley was asked to leave--both had insisted that The Selecter head deeper into reggae territory--and they then formed the short-lived, but compelling, The People). So, The Selecter's Access All Areas is a fairly significant release in terms of the history of the band, as it is the last live recording of the original Selecter line-up and, as far as I can tell, has never been previously issued!

The Selecter's episode of "Rockstage" was broadcast in 1981, after the release of Celebrate the Bullet (and its unwarranted crash and burn) and, as we know, didn't help revive the band's fortunes, though it certainly should have. In the annals of 2 Tone, The Specials have always overshadowed The Selecter, though The Selecter's Access All Areas is further proof of how brilliant they were and how unfair history can be...

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Monday, October 19, 2015

The Frightnrs' New Video for "Sharon"

The Frightnrs--one of my NYC favorite bands, hailing from the fine borough of Queens--have been releasing some incredibly good music and making some very smart business moves recently. They've been working with Diplo's Mad Decent label, as well as the celebrated Daptone Records, and have generated a good deal of attention from press and fans not normally attuned to what's going on in the kinda, very underground NYC ska and reggae scene--all while delivering their own brilliant brand of rub-a-dub and rocksteady. (They haven't changed, the world has come to them...)

The Frightnrs have just released a wry and really well-done video in support of their Mad Decent/The Full Hundred single "Sharon" (read The Duff Guide to Ska review here) and their digital Inna Lovers Quarrel EP (which I owe the band a review of--d'oh!). Take a look at it below...

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If you're in the NYC area this Halloween, you can catch The Frightnrs (plus The Far East and selectors Grace of Spades, and Jah Point and Mush One featuring Screechy Dan) at the Witch Dance (The Kimberlye Project, 1332 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn; doors at 9:00 pm, $10 gets you in).

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