Sunday, December 10, 2017

Detroit Riddim Crew Release "Detroit Holiday Riddim" to Benefit Suck It Suicide

A group of Detroit musicians (including Eric Abbey of 1592, The Dirty Notion, and J. Navarro and the Traitors) calling themselves the Detroit Riddim Crew has released a terrific rocksteady cover of The Emotions' 1973 soul single "What Do the Lonely Do at Christmas" in support of Suck It Suicide, a Detroit-area non-profit whose mission is to prevent suicide through education, advocacy, and support; with a special interest in suicide survivors support and fundraising for families suffering from the loss of a loved one from suicide.

It's a melancholy tune and topic ("'Tis the season to be jolly/But how can I be when I have nobody/The yuletide carol doesn't make it better/Knowing that we won't be together"), but beautiful nonetheless.

To check out the tune and donate to this cause, check out the Detroit Riddim Crew's Bandcamp page.

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Friday, December 8, 2017

The Duff Guide to Ska NYC Fall/Winter 2017/2018 Ska Calendar #57

From The Toasters' "Christmas Ska" album; art by Bob Fingerman.
Friday, December 8, 2017

High School Football Heroes, The Ladrones

The Safari Room at El Cortez
17 Ingraham Street
Brooklyn, NY
$10/21+

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Saturday, December 9, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

The Pandemics, Mad Conductor, Freya Wilcox, MJT, Love is a Fist

The Gateway
1272 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY
$10

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Saturday, December 16, 2017 @ 10:00 pm

Women of Ska, Reggae, and Soul w/Dubistry and Caz Gardiner

Silvana
300 West 116th Street
New York, NY

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Friday, December 22, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

The Slackers (playing the "Red Light" album in its entirety) w/Sammy Kay, Crazy and the Brains, DJ Bugaloo Pete

The Bell House
149 7th Street
Brooklyn, NY
Tix: $20 in advance/$25 day of show/$32 two-day pass
21+

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Saturday, December 23, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

The Slackers (playing the "Peculiar" album in its entirety) w/The World/Inferno Friendship Society, The Fad, DJ Lady Gemini

The Bell House
149 7th Street
Brooklyn, NY
Tix: $20 in advance/$25 day of show/$32 two-day pass
21+

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Friday, December 29, 2017 from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm

DJ Ryan Midnight: Spinning 100% Ska at Otto's Shrunken Head

Otto's Shrunken Head
538 East 14th Street (between Aves A and B)
New York, NY
No cover/21+

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Friday, January 5, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

Boomshot!, Top Shotta, The Fuss

El Cortez
17 Ingraham Street
Brooklyn, NY
$10/21+

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

The Original Wailers, Tribal Seeds, The Expanders

Gramercy Theatre
127 East 23rd Street
New York, NY
$20
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Saturday, January 27, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

The Pietasters and more TBA

Brooklyn Bazaar
150 Greenpoint Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$17 in advance/$20 day of show
All ages

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Friday, March 23, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

Hollie Cook

Elsewhere (Hall)
599 Johnson Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$20 in advance/$22 day of show/16+

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Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

The Annual 4:20 Reggae Fiesta on the River w/Dub is a Weapon, Crazy Baldhead Dub Apparatus, plus Specials Guests TBA

Rocks Off Concert Cruise - Aboard the Harbor Lights
Boards 23rd Street and the FDR
Manhattan, NY
$29 in advance/$35 day of show
21+

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Duff Review: The Georgetown Orbits "Keep Your Chin Up" b/w "Picture on the Wall" Single

Simmerdown Productions
7" vinyl picture sleeve single/digital download
2017

(Review by Steve Shafer)

If the slings and arrows of life have worn you down, one quick (safe and legal) way to lift your spirits may be to take a listen to the Georgetown Orbits' wonderful "Keep Your Chin Up," an infectiously upbeat soulful trad ska track (think Stubborn All-stars) bursting with encouragement and optimism ("Tell me whose burden is the heaviest/Tell me whose life is the easiest/Yes, I know this life seems like a test/And you will pass it/If you give it your best!"). This is paired with a phenomenal cover of Freddy McKay's rocksteady classic "Picture on the Wall" which deftly conveys the heartbreak of the original that also still clings to hope for love ("People said I'm a fool to say goodbye to you/But believe me, your picture's still hanging on the wall/Does it have to be there, still hanging/Hanging on the wall?"). This is one hot single that you don't want to miss.

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Duff Review: King Kong 4 "More Than Just a Plate Full" Single

Winterbeard Records
Two-track digital download
2017

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Given the unbelievably disastrous times we live in (at least here in America), it's hard for me not to think that the kids-learn-bigotry-at-home lyrics of King Kong 4's fantastic "Profile Of A New Elite" are anything but a blunt commentary on the current American president's pernicious and brazenly open cultivation of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, Islamophobes, and their despicable ilk ("Well, boys it's not unlike your father to be hateful/So, eat up because it's not polite to be ungrateful/Deep under every home there's buried a secret/Daddy's digging them out, should they think to keep it/Every member of every family is guilty/Oh, guilty/It's a guilt that is not allowed..."). Then again, it could just be about the awesome power parents have to raise either good and decent human beings or menaces to society.

"Speaking for the Skeptics" is a charming--if melancholy--song told through a paranormal lens about unrequited love with a telephone psychic ("The medium is love/The message is extrasensory/Because you won't even look at me /Clairvoyance has its charm, you said/So does telekinesis, my dear/Use it to let me know you're here/I have had enough/J.B Rhine, or Mirabelli/Well, they might have seen the time/or the love that I'm sending you/But then you won't read my mind/What's the word that I'm searching for/When it's you I want to find/Trying to make that connection/But you're always on the line"). It reminds me of a sticker on a lamppost I see every day on the way to work: "The only magic I still believe in is love."

These are incredible songs (think late 70s Elvis Costello/Joe Jackson meets The Specials) by a stellar band that many more ska fans should make a point to know (and will then love!).

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Want more King Kong 4? Read The Duff Guide to Ska reviews of their There's Not Much That You or I Can Do About It and You Like Awake EPs.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Duff Review: Susan Cadogan: "Don't Know Why" Single

Three-track digital single/Stonyhill Records
7" single (the flip side is "I Don't Want to Play Around")/Parking Lot Sounds (Japan)
2017

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Masterfully produced by Mitch "King Kong" Girio and backed by the superb King Kong 4, Susan Cadogan's "Don't Know Why" is a phenomenal re-recording of her 1982 Lovers Rock single (written by her brother Paul Cadogan and released in Jamaica during an early 1980s resurgence in her career when she scored a series of hit singles, including "Tracks of My Tears," "Piece of My Heart," "Love Me" and two duets with Ruddy Thomas, "(You Know How to Make Me) Feel So Good," and "Only Heaven Can Wait"). This track and its two versions (my favorite is the "Don't Know Why Not Mix") are heartbreakingly beautiful ("I touch your body with my mind/A sad affair with a sweet memory")--Cadogan's voice is as resplendent and expressive as ever. According to Girio, despite having collaborated on several (excellent) releases now, the Toronto-based producer and JA-residing Cadogan have never met, but what incredible music they make!

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For more on Susan Cadogan, read The Duff Guide to Ska review of her Take Me Back EP (also produced by Girio and featuring King Kong 4).

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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: The Red Stripes "In the Ska East"

Mod Sound Records
CD
2017

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Made up of British, Canadian, and Aussie ex-pats residing in Hong Kong, The Red Stripes' sound is similar to many bands in the late 80s and early 90s who were heavily influenced by 2 Tone, but shed that scene's rougher edges in favor of the traditional jazzy/big band ska of The Skatalites and their contemporaries (think The Scofflaws, The Busters, Potato 5). Produced by Sean "Cavo" Dinsmore (of the Skaboom and Thrill Me Up era Toasters, who also contributes some vocal effects on one track) and featuring Neville and Christine Staple on "Hong Kong Special," In the Ska East offers a mix of fine instrumentals ("Hong Kong Dub," "Theme from 'Rocky,'" and "Rude Rude Rude") and catchy originals with male and female vocals (and lovely harmonizing) by Fred Croft and Sarah Watson ("Julia Posh," "Let Me Tell Ya," and "OK La"). Based on this album, The Red Stripes seem like they'd be a fantastic night out.

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(Speaking of connections to The Toasters, The Red Stripes' drummer's name is Matt Davis--can't possibly be that one, right?)

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Record Store Day Black Friday 2017 Ska and Reggae Releases

There aren't many RSD Black Friday releases to temp the ska and reggae fan, but what is on offer is pretty enticing!

First up is the Disco Devil red vinyl 12" from Lee "Scratch" Perry and the Full Experience, featuring both the 12" and 7" mixes of the track (versions of Max Romeo's "Chase the Devil"--one of my absolute favorite songs of all time).

The other--and probably harder to track down--release is the double LP (plus bonus 7") Studio One compilation From the Vaults (Obscure Singles Compilation), which is being billed as a collection of 18 "lost" tracks from the late 1960s to the early 1980s by artists like Alton Ellis, Johnny Osbourne, the Gaylads, Roy Tomlinson, the Soulites, the Officials, Glen and Dave, and more.

Happy hunting (for the vinyl above) and Thanksgiving!

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Duff Review: The Selecter "Daylight"

DMF Records
CD/LP
2017

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Ever since this iteration of The Selecter with Pauline Black, Arthur "Gaps" Hendrickson, and (secret weapon) Neil Pyzer began releasing new music, starting with Made in Britain in 2011, each subsequent record has topped the last. Their most recent release, 2015's excellent Subculture (read our ridiculously in-depth review of it), has been surpassed by The Selecter's latest entry Daylight, which may be this band's best record yet.

As one would expect from a 2 Tone act, there are uncompromisingly political songs addressing social, economic, and racial injustice that stimulate one's mind, conscience, and body. The wildly catchy "Frontline" is critical of our smartphone/social media addicted society, where we have significantly more access to (dis)information and each other than ever before in the history of humanity, but actually seem to be increasingly disconnected, numb, and apathetic as a result ("My mind is full/my heart is empty...I need to believe/In something more/Than I wanna stay free"). "Frontline's" reference to the extrajudicial/racial police killing of Eric Garner makes it also a call for real-world, in-person protesting and organizing for justice and change--not Facebook posts that float without impact in the ether of cyberspace. "Taking Back Control" is a potent, fists-in-the-air call to action to counter the rise of ethno-nationalism and right-wing extremism in the UK in the wake of Brexit, while the "arc of history bends towards justice"-themed "Pass the Power" posits that it's long past time that it be given over to "the righteous side." There is great and uncommon empathy expressed in "Paved with Cold" (where the capitalist dream is a nightmare for many), which is sung from the point of view of a lonely homeless person simply trying to survive the winter in a cruel and heartless land ("Spikes where I want to sit...No money is my only crime"). Gaps takes the mic to sing about impending mortality on the Latin ska track "Remember Me" (half its lyrics are in Spanish) and to decry the futility and waste of never-ending war in "Mayhem" (which sounds like it has some Jackie Mittoo/Sound Dimension "Full Up" DNA embedded in there).

But not all is grim in The Selecter's world, Daylight also contains some phenomenally upbeat tunes. "Daylight" is a 1960s AM pop radio ska/soul gem (with Jools Holland on piano!) about the bliss of being in alive and in love. There's an incredibly sprightly and laid-back reggae groove in "Big Badoof," as Pauline and Gaps urge you to keep your chin up, no matter what comes your way. And perhaps the most extraordinary song on the album is "Things Fall Apart," a joyous, Highlife-tinged ska track about black self-empowerment and interdependence--in addition to being an unequivocal demand for equal rights ("I am the master/The master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul/I can make the centre hold...I'll be/Right here behind you/In whatever you do/I won't desert you...If you take/You'd better give me something back!"). "Things Fall Apart" is a reference to Nigerian author Chinua Achebe's novel of the same name about the pernicious effects of British colonialism from an African perspective--and the track's lyrics also relate to books by James Baldwin ("Go Tell It On The Mountain" and "I Am Not Your Negro," an unfinished book about Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr.) and Alex Haley ("Roots"), all of which explore African-American identity, history, and experience in an horrifically racist nation.

Buoyed by an absolutely winning set of songs, this version of The Selecter has never sounded more relaxed and self-assured--Daylight is a triumph!

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Duff Guide to Ska NYC Fall/Winter 2017/2018 Ska Calendar #56

The one and only Gaz Mayall of The Trojans!
Saturday, December 9, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

The Pandemics, Mad Conductor, Freya Wilcox, MJT, Love is a Fist

The Gateway
1272 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY
$10

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Saturday, December 16, 2017 @ 10:00 pm

Women of Ska, Reggae, and Soul w/Dubistry and Caz Gardiner

Silvana
300 West 116th Street
New York, NY

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Friday, December 22, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

The Slackers (playing the "Red Light" album in its entirety)

The Bell House
149 7th Street
Brooklyn, NY
Tix: $20 in advance/$25 day of show/$32 two-day pass
21+

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Saturday, December 23, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

The Slackers (playing the "Peculiar" album in its entirety)

The Bell House
149 7th Street
Brooklyn, NY
Tix: $20 in advance/$25 day of show/$32 two-day pass
21+

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

The Original Wailers, Tribal Seeds, The Expanders

Gramercy Theatre
127 East 23rd Street
New York, NY
$20

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Friday, March 23, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

Hollie Cook

Elsewhere (Hall)
599 Johnson Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$20 in advance/$22 day of show/16+

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Monday, November 13, 2017

The Ninth Annual Montreal Ska Festival: November 23-26, 2017!

The Ninth Annual Montreal Ska Festival (organized by the Montreal Ska Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of Québécois and Canadian ska music and culture) is fast approaching! If you're a fan of the amazing Canadian ska scene (as well as a few American interlopers!), this is the place to be.

Of note, this year's edition of the festival features the return of two very much missed bands, The Kingpins and 2 Stone 2 Skank.

Details on each night's line-up are below and through the links.

Vive le ska!

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Thursday, November 23, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

Kman and the 45s, The Peelers, The Resojets, Les Séparatwists

Cafe Campus - Montreal
57 Prince-Arthur E.
Montreal, Quebec
$15/18+

Friday, November 24, 2017 @ 7:30 pm

2 Stone 2 Skank, Danny Rebel and The KGB, Les Happycuriens, Sammy Kay

Cafe Campus - Montreal
57 Prince-Arthur E.
Montreal, Quebec
$15/18+

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Kingpins, The Beatdown, Vic Ruggiero and Chris Murray, Skatton Club

Cafe Campus - Montreal
57 Prince-Arthur E.
Montreal, Quebec
$22/18+

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And there are afterparties each night.

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For some more background on the Montreal Ska Festival, read an interview we did with the organizers, Valerie Desnoyers and Lorraine Muller, back in 2011.

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