Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Duff Gig Review: Across the Aisle, Tip the Van, Brunt of It, Beat Brigade, Bigger Thomas (11/7/09)

A decent-sized crowd converged on The Knitting Factory (Crookland) for the first of many Ska Splash Saturdays to come, which will be taking place the first Saturday of each month, from November onward.

This particular evening, New York's own Across the Aisle was first at bat and delivered a terrific set of their super-charged ska/pop-punk. ATA's songwriting is powerful and catchy (the past few mornings, I've woken up with one of their songs playing on a loop in my head); their performances were really tight (the interplay between lead vocalist Megg Howe and trumpeter/singer Jay Pintar was particularly good--and their relatively new guitarist Aaron Trigg gives them some extra crunch and bite when they rock out); and the band looked like they were having a blast on-stage. What's not to like? Their set included "Put Up Your Dukes," "Roots," "Better Off" (which I wished I had videotaped, as it's one of my favorite songs), "Total Stranger" (I should have taped this one, too, since it was stunning), "Everybody Lies," "Born Dirty," "Beer Song," and "Walk of Shame" (I shot video clips of the last two songs, which are posted below). The only downer was that they hit the stage early in the night and the room wasn't as full as it at should have been for a band this good. (The next time you can catch ATA in NYC is during Thanksgiving weekend--Saturday, November 28 at the Trash Bar in Williamsburg with Jersey's Hub City Stompers.)

Across the Aisle also has a brand new EP out (sort of a preview of their forthcoming debut album) recorded and produced by their drummer, Jonathan Vergara, titled "Change Nothing!" (to be reviewed soon by The Duff Guide to Ska). They were selling copies of the EP at their merch table, along with--and this is a nice touch--Kelly green ties complete with ATA badges in the center of each of them.

Even though they're from just one state over, I'm ashamed to admit that I was completely unfamiliar with Connecticut's Tip the Van (they've been around since 2002) and was both surprised/psyched to find that they are another female-fronted ska act (vocalists Nicole and Simone Olivia, and trombonist/keyboardist Stephanie Allen). Tip the Van pump out a mighty wall of ska-rock (though the video below is more on the ska side of things) that lives somewhere between Dance Hall Crashers and a band like Reel Big Fish (check out their latest EP, Passion, Love, and Pride on iTunes). Whether one prefers more post-2 Tone or vintage ska to the punk or rock spectrum of ska hypenates, there is no question that Tip the Van puts on a helluva good show.

Brunt of It cranked out punishing hardcore-ska turned up to 11 (thanks, Jay, for the extra set of earplugs!) with Glenn Beck look-alike singer Boofish riding atop the tsunami of noise. If you like hardcore, you'll dig this act. Apparently, Brunt of It spawned out of the ruins of Hoodlum Empire, which was a great, snotty Oakland, CA-based ska band in the 90s (I still have their 1994 CD, Looooking Goood!, which could be described as Fishbone's debut EP crossed with the white-boy rap/punk of the Beastie Boys' Cooky Puss or Licensed to Ill with songs worth tracking down like "Buried in Debt," "Charlie and Me," and "Drunk at Work").

I'm really embarrassed to admit that I missed (!?!) Beat Brigade's set, as I was in The Kontrol Room talking with King Django about the current, utterly crappy state of the indie/underground/ska music industry and what any possible way out to better days might be (neither of us had any great epiphanies--more on this in an upcoming post). And apologies to Bigger Thomas--we had to leave before they played. It was getting late, my friend and I had downed many cervezas, and we both had kids to deal with in the AM...

Earlier in the night, Knitting Factory VP Shay Vishawadia told me that he intends to arrange for several ska/reggae DJs to be on hand at each of the Ska Splash nights to spin some vinyl and help make them more of a regular event for the ska/rocksteady/reggae faithful to come to and hang out (as well as enjoy/check out all of the great ska bands that are currently on the scene...). Here's to hoping that Ska Splash develops into an even bigger ska happening each month--the bands and this club need and deserve your support!


Kames Jelly said...

I was very disappointed with the turnout. I was also disappointed i didn't get to introduce myself to you. I was the kid with the yellow backpack, if you noticed.

Beat Brigade were amazing. one or two songs were a little shaky, but not enough to detract from my enjoyment. It was great hearing Try and Try Again live.

You weren't the only ones to leave before Bigger Thomas. They played to about 10-15 people. Which was a bummer, but didn't keep them from putting on a great show like they always do. They even had the people from the bands who played (whoever was left) come up on stage for Monkey Man and Ska In My Pocket at the end of their set.

The best part of this show for me was talking to some old heads at the show, and hearing them reminisce about the good old days, going to see Second Step at the Danceteria, or Skinnerbox hangin outside Blanche's on Avenue A, and playing shows at a T.G.I Fridays.

After the show, my friend and I ended up going to a party with Django at Mush One's house, which ended up being the CD Release Party for Brigadier Jerry's new album. Downbeat The Ruler was spinning records all night while Brigadier Jerry, Sister Carol, Mikey Jarrett, Santa Ranking, and Calton Livingston toasted and sang. We didn't leave until 5am.

All in all, it was a great night, and worth the 3 hour train ride in from Jersey.

Steve from Moon said...


Thanks for filling in the blanks in my gig review! It's too bad that there weren't that many people left for Bigger Thomas...I guess that the Knitting Factory can't have shows that go on too late in their new Brooklyn digs. People have to do a fair amount of traveling to get there and back home.

And your after-party experience sounds like it was incredible! I'm jealous--but good for you!

We'll meet up at another gig soon...



Marco On The Bass said...

Sorry I also didn't get a chance to meet you in person so we could compare notes on the NYC ska scene of old and the current one. Maybe next time...

Steve from Moon said...


Thanks for the message. Yes! Next time for sure!