Thursday, November 28, 2013

Duff Review: Chris Murray, The Ladrones, and Rude Boy George at Electric Avenue on 11/16/13!

(by Steve Shafer)

While it would be outrageously self-serving to write a review of a show that I helped organize and that also featured a band that I'm in, I'll go the route of cobbling something together here that is somewhere between a just-the-facts-ma'am report and a first person experience of the night.

Rude Boy George, the band that I'm damn lucky to be a part of (singing back-up vocals and playing a smattering of melodica), performed their fifth live show at Electric Avenue on Saturday, November 16, 2013. We formed back in January, after I shared a crazy idea that had been bouncing around my head for a few years with Marc Wasserman, the bassist of Bigger Thomas and writer for Marco on the Bass blog: for kicks, let's form a band that does ska, rocksteady, and reggae covers of New Wave classics (we both were in high school and college during the 1980s and are still fanatic about the "modern rock" bands of that era). Marc loved the idea and almost immediately recruited many of his bandmates from Bigger Thomas (Roger Apollon on vocals, original BT drummer Jim Cooper, and guitarist Spencer Katzman) and keyboardist Dave Barry (Beat Brigade, The Toasters). I had the idea of approaching Across the Aisle singer and friend Megg Howe, who signed up with us on the spot!

After several rehearsals, we forged a respectable set list of tunes by Human League, Soft Cell, The Romantics, Billy Idol, INXS, The Smiths, Cyndi Lauper, Squeeze, Culture Club (we've since added songs by Gary Numan, the Psychedelic Furs, Talking Heads, and Berlin) and debuted at Electric Avenue on April 13, 2013 to a very enthusiastic crowd. Later that spring, we recorded three tracks at Bill Laswell's studio out in West Orange, NJ with ex-General Public/Special Beat/English Beat bassist Wayne Lothian producing. Our five-track digital EP Take One (with "(Keep Feeling) Fascination," "Don't Change," and "Talking in Your Sleep"--plus two remixes) will be released in the near future. And plans are in the works to record additional covers soon that will see the light of day on a more tangible format. Rude Boy George's set list continues to expand with each rehearsal and show (and our line-up has already changed a bit: we now feature Jesse Gosselin of Across the Aisle/The Royal Swindle and Jeff Usamanont of FunkFace/Daft Phunk/Electric Company on guitars). At our recent gig at Hat City Kitchen in Orange, NJ, we unleashed our goth-reggae version of the Psychedelic Furs' "Love My Way," which we had worked out in a three-hour rehearsal the night before (see the video of it from our Electric Avenue show below).

According to Roger, this gig featured some of Rude Boy George's best performances yet. Watch some/all of the videos of our performance below to confirm his assessment (big thanks to Sally Apollon for taping them!). This was our entire set that night, with the exception of Berlin's "The Metro" (which we'll capture at some future date, as it has an excellent Selecter vibe to it and Megg's performance is phenomenal on this track).

Electric Avenue is very interested in linking up with the Spanish ska scene in the NYC area (we've hosted Los Skarroneros in the past), so we were psyched to feature The Ladrones (The Thieves), who are a fantastic, anthemic ska-punk powerhouse (check out their excellent, new digital album Bestias del Chaos--I really dig "Tradicion,""Basta," and "No Hay Futuro," which is below)! The opened their set with a bad-ass rendition of Henry Mancini's "Peter Gunn Theme" and then ripped through a killer set of horn-heavy original tunes. I'm sad to say that my Spanish is very poor, so I can't tell you what they were singing about, but everyone present was captivated by their dynamic and muscular performance. Below are some videos of their performance...

If you didn't already know, Chris Murray was first the singer/songwriter for Canada's super popular King Apparatus (their 1991 debut album is an early 3rd Wave classic--check out my review of it here). Chris went solo in the mid-90s, forgoing Toronto's long, rough winters for the eternal sunshine of Southern California. When Chris approached Moon Records with his decidedly lo-fi, one man ska band debut album (The Four Track Adventures of Chris Murray), Bucket was very wary of releasing it. But Chris' incredible songwriting and lively performances won me over immediately. After some lobbying, I convinced a reluctant Bucket that the album was more than worthy of being released on the label (the saga of the album's release is, of course, memorialized on Chris' "Cooper Station Blues," which he snuck onto the release without our knowledge just before the CD was pressed at DiscMakers!).

Our paths hadn't passed since the late 90s, so when Chris indicated that he was planning an East Coast tour, I was ecstatic that he accepted our invitation to play Electric Avenue. At the last minute, Chris had taken on the opening slot on the Streetlight Manifesto tour. So on this night, Chris played his 30-minute set in Sayerville, NJ, hopped on a train to NYC, and then headlined our show. He performed for about an hour and a half and clearly had a blast (as did everyone in the crowd)--taking requests (see "Ex Darling" below, thanks to Bryan Kremkau of Ska Punk Photos, who also took some amazing photos of each performer), as well as covering The Toasters' "Thrill Me Up" and recounting how his first record came about ("Cooper Station Blues"). It was fantastic catching up with Chris after the show, talking about strategies for releasing his next album, and figuring out how he could get out to where he was staying in Brooklyn later that night/morning without the L train (which was suspended, due to construction). Here's hoping he comes this way again soon...

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