Thursday, November 10, 2011

Queen P (of Ocean 11) and The Shifters Hit DC, Baltimore, and NYC!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Queen P (Ocean 11), The Shifters, and the Hub City Stompers

Solly's Tavern
1942 11th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Queen P and The Shifters, plus DJ Amanda Otto and Selector Pablo Fiasco

The Sidebar Tavern
218-20 E Lexington Street
Baltimore, MD

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Queen P (of Ocean 11), The Shifters (DC), and The Frighteners (plus DJs Grace of Spades and Hahn Solo)

The Shop Brooklyn
290 Metropolitan Avenue (between Roebling & Driggs)
Brooklyn, NY

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Editor's Note: Here's some cool (personal) background on this Queen P/Shifters mini-tour from The Shifters' t-bonist King Duncan that also serves as a tribute to the legendary 1990s California trad ska band Ocean 11...

"17 years ago, I was turning 17."

by King Duncan

That was the thought that ran through my head this morning when I woke up at 5 AM. I don’t have a lot of time these days to ponder life, mortality, love found and lost… Y’know, the real meaningful shit portrayed by people my age in romantic comedies. Yeah. That’s not me. I’m kind of busy. I’m a “working professional” who moved to DC from San Diego to further my career, like many imports to this area. To torture myself further, I’ve also joined a few bands along the way and helped start a monthly Ska and Reggae venue because, obviously, I was getting way too much sleep. My life is hectic. So somewhere between a morning shower and walking into work, I get a few seconds to think, reflect, and focus.

Lately, that quality morning-think time has been dedicated to concentrating on this upcoming weekend (and inevitably about my upcoming birthday on Sunday). In case anyone reading this doesn’t know, The Shifters, my semi-upstart, semi-Rocksteady band, are embarking on a mini-tour up the East Coast with Persephone, AKA Queen P, from Ocean 11. Persephone was kind enough to agree to come out here for my birthday and perform one show at my club, BlueBeat DC. The idea eventually evolved and we ended up agreeing to extend the good times through Veterans Day, with stops in Baltimore and New York City.

Amongst friends, band-mates and fans (we have those?), some have asked me just what is the big deal about Ocean 11 and Queen P? Indeed, even this website linked to an article attempting to answer that very question. In an effort to lend clarity to this mystery bestowed on my East Coast brethren, I volunteered to write a piece promoting the shows and shedding some light on why we So Cal folk of a certain age have such a fondness for Ocean 11.

One problem: every time I try writing this article, I end up editing it down to nothing because, to be completely honest, fellow Duff readers, I can’t begin to write about this subject without getting ridiculously autobiographical. To be frank, the story gets kind of fucking weird. In fact, if anyone ever ends up reading this, I guarantee what you are reading on your screen has been edited no less than 20 times and most likely will still come off fairly strange. Continue at your own risk.

“The Highest of Heavens”

That’s my favorite line from "The Best of Love," a song found on the Step On It compilation released around 1994 or 1995. I was 17 when I bought that CD. That was 17 years ago. Back then I was poor, white trash. I had few friends. I was not well-liked. I did things by myself. I hated my school and the preppy, asshole fucks found therein. One of my few sanctuaries was music. I loved playing music, listening to music, and seeing music performed live. I loved going to shows (usually alone) and had developed a liking of Ska, in particular. (I also developed a short-lived fanaticism with Gwen Stefani, but that’s another story for another time.) If I have any fond memories of my high school years, it’s the escape and sense of relief I felt in the world of music. That’s where I belonged.

However, at 17, I also had the attention span of a gnat. The modern bands I listened to since age 15 or 16 (No Doubt, Sublime, Skankin’ Pickle, to name some) who fascinated me previously could not keep my attention any longer. 2 Tone filled that gap, momentarily. But honestly, how much 2 Tone can anyone really listen to? Coincidentally, many modern acts of the time were transitioning to a poppy, New Wave kind of feel and shedding their Ska roots. I still bought many CDs, many compilations, even a few tapes, only to be bored with them a few weeks later. Ska, or rather The Ska I Knew, was not cutting it anymore.

Somewhere in the mess, I bought a CD comp put out by some radio show called The Ska Parade, a program I had never heard previously. The CD had a shit ton of local bands I had never really heard of previously, either. The disc came with a booklet that was entirely too long to read and didn’t make a lot of sense the few times I glanced at it. Most of the bands were woefully forgettable. Given all that, the CD did contain, however, two tracks from a band called Ocean 11. Two songs of pure, unadulterated, traditional Ska of which I honestly had never heard before.

This Ocean 11 outfit, whomever they were, sounded old yet new; modern yet classic. Crisp female vocals harmonically delivered over carefully plucked basslines. Guitars strummed with clean distortion on the upbeat. Drumsticks dancing on a hi-hat while a middle speed tempo swings and sways. It was New-Old-Stock perfection: a culmination of sound that can only compare to seeing a great black and white movie in a new theater or driving a classic car on a modern highway. Every time I listened to these two songs, I’d end up going back and listening to them again. Over and over and over.

Inspiration naturally turned into obsession. I caught a fever. I immediately sought more from these Ocean 11 people, eventually stumbling upon their only full length CD, The Good, The Bad, The Ugly. A disc that did not fail to deliver on what the previous radio show compilation tracks promised… In fact, the album is so good, I don’t have enough time or space to gush over it. Just know this: it is the greatest Rocksteady/Ska/Reggae album ever recorded by a modern band. And the sound Ocean 11 laid down led to a natural fondness of the other amazing traditional bands of the time I was until then unaware of (Hepcat, Mobtown, etc.), while opening my ear up to what the legends did in Jamaica so many years before. And many, many years later, these are the same kinds of sounds I try to emulate in my own bands.

Fast forward to the now.

I’m turning 34 this week. I’m an adult. I have an adult life. I have adult problems and I find adult resolutions. I have adult ups and adult downs. My teenaged Ska fixation has morphed into a deep appreciation for music, in general, and oddly enough, a good number of those folks who were in those bands I was so hooked on 10 or 12 or 15 years ago are now my friends. I even conned a few of them into giving me their phone numbers! SUCKERS!!! And in this time that is now, as I reconcile the shows booked with my band and Persephone, I put on Ocean 11 during my morning-think time so I can study. I analyze what they did, how they did it, and I try to imagine how The Shifters are going to attempt to do that. We’ve been at this for weeks now. I hope we get it right.

But below all that, somewhere in the back of my consciousness, bleeding like water through a Kleenex is a white trash, Ska-addicted teenager who is waiting in line to get in the club. I’ve been waiting to get in this club for 17 years. Man, 17 years. Seems like half a lifetime ago…


Anonymous said...

this is a great piece. I especially liked the " In fact, the album is so good, I don’t have enough time or space to gush over it." Good one duff! n gwen stefani is now selling legos at Target on the east coast!

wish I could see this band oer the weekend!

Steve from Moon said...

Thanks! But I can't claim credit for writing this's King Duncan from The Shifters.

I'll be there at the show in Brooklyn with my trusty Flip, so I'll shoot and post some videos!

Anonymous said...

Great article! That's exactly the same way I found out about Ocean 11--The Ska Parade compilation. I'd never heard of The Ska Parade show either but once I heard those two songs I was hooked! Glad to hear Queen P is out there playing. Come to Los Angeles!

Anonymous said...

It's so nice of y'all to say those things about Ocean 11.
When I started that band in '91, our only thought was to learn how to record and also to have fun playing ska. Now 21 years later, I'm trying to do a second record. I'm hoping to launch a kickstarter campaign soon to raise $ for a new record. I'll keep u'all posted. - Ray Danger

Steve from Moon said...


Definitely let us know about the Kickstarter campaign and we'll help spread the word!