Thursday, November 17, 2011

Duff Gig Review: Queen P and The Shifters at The Shop Brooklyn (11/12/11)

Back in the mid-1990s, Ocean 11 were one of those bands that had this crazy, under-the-radar buzz about them. If you didn't live in Southern California with direct access to that almost mythic ska scene (which seemed to exist apart from every other ska scene in the US in terms of its sheer size and the number of incredible bands it generated), Ocean 11 seemed particularly mysterious and elusive. Someone in a band or a college radio station would rave about them to you over the phone or you'd glean some bit of news about their activity from a fanzine (these were pre-internet times, so everything was word-of-mouth, second-hand).

Eventually, the Moon Records store (when it was a teeny shop on East 2nd Street between Avenues A and B) obtained a few copies of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (released in 1995) and I was able to get my mitts on a copy (this is now one rare CD--used copies of it are going for close to $70 on Amazon and GEMM). It's a mix of well-known and obscure ska and rocksteady covers (The Tartans, The Caledonians), as well as some terrific originals. I just dug it out to give it a listen and found that The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly still stands up as one of the best traditional ska records of the 1990s.

Ocean 11 - Can't Forget About You by Duff Guide to Ska

The band never made it out to the East Coast (and I never caught them there), but we were lucky enough to feature them on two Moon Records releases: California Ska-quake, Volume 2: The Aftershock (compiled by Luis Correa of Steady Beat, who did a damn fine job--his label also distributed The Good, The Bad, The Ugly) and the Bang soundtrack. For those wanting to track down more of their discography, Ocean 11 cuts also can be found on Ska Island (Island Records), Girls Go Ska (Simmerdown Productions), Skauthentic (Steady Beat Recordings), Step on It (The Ska Parade), Keep the Pressure On (Kingpin Records), Ska Sucks (Liberation Records), and Ska Stars of the 90s (Gaz's Rockin Records).

[Ocean 11 fans should take note that Moondust Records just released a new single from the band that contains "Miss Understanding" (which appeared on the aforementioned Girls Go Ska comp) b/w "Spring in Rome" (a previously unreleased track that also features Malik Moore of The Bullets). I was lucky enough to pick up a copy at this gig along with a live Ocean 11 CD!]

Ocean 11 Miss Understanding by Duff Guide to Ska

So, I was pretty psyched to hear that King Duncan of The Shifters was using his birthday as an excuse to fulfill a ska fan-boy fantasy by flying out Queen P--Ocean 11's singer, who has recently been gigging with The Delirians--for some shows backed by The Shifters in Washington, DC, Baltimore, and New York City. (Read King Duncan's tribute to Ocean 11 here.)

Their New York gig took place at The Shop Brooklyn in Williamsburg, which is motorcycle shop by day and bar/BBQ joint by night. Bands play in the large garage in the back of the building next to a sea of choppers, which makes for a cool and unconventional venue. However, the one downside to this somewhat DIY set-up was the sub-par PA system that was in use (apologies for the sometimes poor sound quality in the videos below--but I think enough of the musicians' amazing performances come through that they're worth posting and watching). The next show there features H.R. of the Bad Brains (on November 26)...let's hope the venue figures out their sound issues before then.

DJs Han Solo (Dave Hahn of Dub is a Weapon) and Grace of Spades prepped the crowd with some choice selections of vintage ska and early reggae and then The Shifters were up. Hitting the concrete floor in matching Hawaiian shirts, the band tore through their set of excellent swinging, soulful ska original tunes (plus their signature cover of "Rockfort Rock") with such obvious glee (look at them do their synchronized moves in "Dance with You"!). It's been a long time since I've seen a band have such a blast playing out--and the audience couldn't help but being won over by their terrifically tight performance. If these guys play your town, make sure to see them.

Queen P's phenomenal set was mostly comprised of material off The Good, The Bad, The Ugly (not unexpected, of course) and included The Clarendonians' "Rules of Life," The Tartan's "Solid as a Rock," Cornel Campbell's "Let's Start Again," Ocean 11's "I am Queen"--and the highlights for me were Marcia Griffiths' "I Shall Sing," and Phyllis Dillon's "Picture on the Wall" and "I Can't Forget About You Baby." Queen P's voice has such an amazing purity, warmth, clarity, and directness to it (sadly, sometimes hard to hear through the terrible PA system that night) and she exudes such a cool confidence and ease as she sings. She's a wonderfully gifted performer to watch in action. I hope she'll make the trip out East again to play with The Shifters soon--and if you're anywhere near where they play, you make make sure to catch 'em!

[The Frighteners also played later this night--I didn't catch enough of their set, which sounded fantastic--but will review one of their live gigs soon...]

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(Again, sorry about the quality of the sound--the PA at the venue wasn't great--so it is what it is...but there is still lots here to like and enjoy!)

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UPDATE: Here's a link to some videos (with much better audio) of Queen P and The Shifters performing in Washington, DC and Baltimore on this same tour--see them here.

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JJ Loy said...

Nice videos! Very Comprehensive Ocean 11 info too!

GBU was probably my first neo-trad album, that and BLTN changed my life, for sure.

Just one thing, can you tell me more about this O11 live album you picked up? Is it a bootleg or a pre-release or... ?

Steve from Moon said...

Thanks for your comments, JJ!

The Ocean 11 live CD is something that Queen P was selling at the Brooklyn show along with the Ocean 11 single on Moondust. It's a CD-R of a 1997 Ocean 11 gig and the sound is really quite good. It's definitely worth picking up!

If I find out where people can buy this apart from gigs, I'll let you know.

Steve from Moon said...

If you're interested in buying the live Ocean 11 CD, go to Persephone Laird's Facebook page and send her a personal message...