Thursday, January 24, 2013

Duff Gig Review: The Scofflaws and The Bullbuckers at Electric Avenue on 1/19/13!

(Review by Steve Shafer)

When we first announced that The Scofflaws were going to be the headlining act of Electric Avenue's first show of 2013, there was an immediate, enthusiastic online reaction about the re-emergence of this highly regarded 90s-era band (I think the last time they played in Manhattan was at The Studio at Webster Hall with Bad Manners and The Forthrights in June 2011)--and I have to admit that I was just as excited about the prospect of seeing them again as the next rabid ska fan.

Years ago, after hearing and completely digging their "Rudy's Back" track on the Moon Records Ska Face compilation, I caught my first Scofflaws show in May of 1989 at the Pyramid on Avenue A (my college friend and I were the only two non-skinheads in the joint). I had actually shown up to see the NY Citizens--who were absolutely fantastic (I had recently reviewed their debut album On the Move in my college newspaper)--but I stumbled out of the Pyramid a sweaty, newly-minted Scofflaws zealot--and saw them many times throughout the 90s (in places as humble as TGIF's on 13th Street and Fifth Avenue to massive rock venues like The (New) Ritz/Studio 54 for Skalapalooza and the Palladium for the taping of the "USA Up All Night New Year's Eve Ska Party"). I also had the great pleasure of working with the band at Moon Records, helping to promote all of their albums and tours.

My Electric Avenue partner in crime, Marc Wasserman (Bigger Thomas/Marco on the Bass) had suggested booking The Bullbuckers for this EA night, who hail from Delaware and (we believe) are pretty much the only ska band in that state (anyone got the goods to contradict me?). Marc had heard really good things about their live show--and since Electric Avenue is all about featuring acts from out-of-town and forging new bonds to extend/strengthen the ska network--we were more than happy to book them.

About 75 people turned out last Saturday night (1/19/13) at Characters for our Electric Avenue night (a decent crowd for a room that can fit around 120). The Bullbuckers--who have a tight, muscular ska-rock-reggae sound (with Kevin Tarzanin on bass and vocals; Aaron Poole on guitar; and Steve Politowski on drums) and sport one of the best horn sections on the scene (Jim Miller on trumpet; Dave Faga on alto sax; and Steve Sharp on trombone)--instantly won over the crowd with their mix of excellent originals from their debut album When Push Comes to Shove (such as "St. Patty's Day," "Gimme A Little Sign," "That's How Strong," "Otis," and "Falcon") and vintage ska classics (Rafael Hernández Marín's/Sound Dimension's "Rockfort Rock"; and Derrick Morgan's "The Conqueror" and "Tougher Than Tough"). Check out some videos I shot of their stellar performance below.

If you have the opportunity to see The Bullbuckers play (they typically have gigs in Philly, Newark, DE, and Reheboth Beach, DE), definitely do it--you'll have a great time! They're genuinely nice and talented guys who deserve ska fans' support!

About half way through The Bullbuckers' performance, I spied Richard "Sammy" Brooks (singer, songwriter, and saxophonist of The Scofflaws) nattily dressed in a suit and pork pie, surveying the scene for people he knew (he spotted Michelle Ska at once) and sizing up the musical competition. It's been over a decade, I hate to admit, since I'd last seen The Scofflaws, so it was fantastic to see Richard and to catch up a bit before (and after) their set.

As The Scofflaws opened with Don Drummond's "Man in the Street," a line of 90s-era ska faithful--ex-Moon Records employees Adam Liebling, Ray Manuud, and myself, as well as uber ska fans Michelle Ska and Skankin' Rich--closed ranks at the front of the crowd to take in the band up close. Their set was spectacular--a mix of their hits of their four albums ("A Shot in the Dark," "Nude Beach," "Back Door Open," "Paul Getty," "Till the End of Time," "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly," "On Hold with Quackie," "Ska-La-Parisian," "Nightmare," and "Grazin' in the Grass," which incorporated a lengthy and hilarious jeremiad against the anti-weed forces that be, and more--all of which were so good to hear again live), as well as a slew of really terrific new songs, including the instrumental "Rude Boy Train" (loved the inclusion of the Super Mario Brothers video game music by the trombonist during his improvisatory riff!), the slightly lewd "Lucy Brown," "Country Man" (about a pot farmer), and covers of "Batman" (from the campy TV show with Adam West, natch) and the theme from "The Godfather."

Towards the end of their performance, ex-Scofflaw Buford O'Sullivan (now of the Easy Stars All-Stars) had shown up to see his old mates and was called up to sing a raucous version of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots are Made for Walkin'" (which The Scofflaws have always done as "These Boots are Made for Stompin'!").

The current incarnation of the band--(Richard Brooks on sax and vocals; Greg Bucking on guitar; Glen Saunders on bass; Jared Dubin on trombone; and John Soldo on drums)--is really top notch. But the focus was, as it should be, on Brooks, who made mad faces, wagged his ass, did exaggerated, crazy 60s dance moves, screamed at us, and dashed madly through the crowd--anything and everything to entertain, engage, and please the audience (which he did and then some). The Scofflaws put on one hell of an enjoyable show--as you'll find in my videos below.

After their set, Richard told me that The Scofflaws will be releasing a new album sometime this year--Skinhead Beer Party--which is already in the can! From the new tunes we heard here, it should be a scorcher!

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Check out great photos by Bryan Kremkau (of of both The Scofflaws and The Bullbuckers in action at Electric Avenue!

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Shameless plug: the next Electric Avenue ska night is Saturday, February 23, 2013 with The Reggay Lords and The Copasetics (from Rhode Island). If you're in the NYC area, we hope to see you there.

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Anonymous said...


Bummed I missed this show, would love to see the scofflaws live again, listening to their Live CD now.

Psyched they have a new CD coming out though.


Steve from Moon said...

Thanks, Andrew! The Scofflaws are playing out more, so you'll have another chance to see them fairly soon (they just opened for The English Beat last night in Huntington, NY).

The new CD should be great!

Unknown said...

You think Lucy Brown is a saucy tune? Wait til you hear The Scofflaws crank out "Hot Dog Woman" :p

Miles said...

The quality of these videos is pretty great. You must've been front row and center. Really digging The Scofflaws videos. What's that bass he's playing there? Never seen one like that before.