Friday, August 31, 2012

Toasters Fall Tour Dates: US, Canada, Hawaii, and China!

The Toasters are touring a good part of the USA this fall (including Hawaii), though the bigger news is their first trip to China in early October. 

(On a related note, Marc Wasserman of Bigger Thomas and Marco on the Bass and I will be spinning some ska at The Toasters' Brooklyn date at The Knitting Factory on November 2; the amazing Snails are also on that bill!)

8/31 - Syracuse, NY: The Lost Horizon

9/1 - Lavaltrie, QC: Pouzza Pelouzza
9/2 - Burlington, VT: Club Metronome
9/05 - Oklahoma City, OK: The Conservatory
9/07 - Honolulu, HI: Hawaiian Brains
9/08 - Lahaina, HI: Hard Rock Cafe
9/29 Beijing, China: YUGONGYISHAN

10/1 -  Zhengzhou, China: 7 LIVE
10/2 - Xi'An, China: Aperture
10/3 -  Chengdu, China: TBA
10/4 - Wuhan, China: VOX
10/5 - Hefei, China: TBA
10/6 - Shanghai, China: YU YIN TANG
10/11 - Dallas, TX: La Grange
10/12 - San Antonio, TX: Korova
10/13 - Corpus Christi, TX: House of Rock
10/14 - Houston, TX: Walter's (With The Skatalites!)
10/15 - New Orleans, LA: Siberia
10/16 - Tallahassee, FL: Rehab
10/17 - New Smyrna Beach, FL: Beachside Tavern
10/18 - Jacksonville, FL: Jack Rabbit's
10/19 - W Palm Beach, FL: Respectable St
10/20 - St Petersburg, FL: Local 662
10/21 - Orlando, FL: The Social
10/22 - W Columbia, SC: New Brookland Tavern
10/23 - Asheville, NC: Jack of the Wood
10/24 - Cincinnati, OH: MOTR Pub
10/25 - Detroit, MI: Magic Stick Lounge
10/26 - Chicago, IL: Reggie's
10/27 - Cleveland, OH: Now That's Class
10/28 - Buffalo, NY: Mohawk Place
10/30 - Baltimore, MD: The Ottobar
10/31 - Hartford, CT: Arch Street Tavern

11/01 - Philadelphia, PA: World Cafe Live
11/02 - Brooklyn, NY: Knitting Factory (with The Snails)
11/03 - Somerville, MA: Johnny D's

Friday, August 17, 2012

NYC Summer 2012 Ska Calendar Update #27

Saturday, August 18, 2012 @ 9:00 pm

Lone Wolf
1089 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 

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Sunday, August 19, 2012, 2:00 pm-10:00 pm

Low Tide Bar
Beach 97th Street Boardwalk
Rockaway Beach, Queens, NY

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Crossroads
78 North Avenue
Garwood, NJ
(This is the King Django Birthday Bash)

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Saturday, September 15, 2012 @ 8:00 pm

Characters NYC
243 West 54th Street (between Broadway and 8th Avenue)
Manhattan, NY

(Electric Avenue is sponsored by Marco on the Bass and The Duff Guide to Ska)

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Saturday, October 13, 2012 @ 8:00 pm

Electric Avenue presents Destroy Babylon plus The Frightnrs!

Characters NYC
243 West 54th Street (between Broadway and 8th Avenue)
Manhattan, NY

(Electric Avenue is sponsored by Marco on the Bass and The Duff Guide to Ska)

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Sunday, October 21, 2012 at 7:00 pm

w/Pilfers, Edna's Goldfish, Spring Heeled Jack (acoustic), Sammy Kay and the Fast Five, Across the Aisle

Gramercy Theatre
127 East 23rd Street
New York, NY

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Toasters Tour Oz for First Time/Kickstarter Project for Reissue of "Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down"

Dates have just been announced for The Toasters' first ever (yes, first ever!) tour of Australia coming up in September (dates below). It's hard to believe, but the band has never been Down Under in all of its years roaming the world. Word has it that The Toasters will go on to play in several countries in Asia after their Aussie adventure. Stay tuned for more details on that.

In other Toasters news, the 3rd Wave Ska Preservation Society Reissue Project, Round 2 (put together by Asbestos Records and Underground Communique Records) has a Kickstarter project that includes the pressing of an expanded (i.e., bonus and remixed tracks), double-LP reissue of The Toasters "Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down" (read a review of the album from back in the day here). If you're interested in supporting this record (and 90s releases from Edna's Goldfish, The Slackers, and the Bruce Lee Band), go here.

The Toasters Tour of Australia, September 2012

Thursday, 13th September – Enigma Bar, Adelaide
with The Resignators & Son Of Dad
Tickets available from

Friday, 14th September – The Palais, Daylesford
with The Resignators
Tickets available from

Saturday, 15th September – SKA NATION Festival, The Espy, Melbourne
Tickets available from

Sunday, 16th September – Transit Lounge, Canberra
with The Resignators
Tickets available from

Wednesday, 19th September – The Patch, Wollongong
with The Resignators & Steel City Allstars
Tickets available from

Thursday, 20th September – The Cambridge, Newcastle
with The Resignators & The AuSkas
Tickets available from

Friday, 21st September – The Annandale, Sydney
with The Resignators & The AuSkas
Tickets available from the

Saturday, 22nd September – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane
with The Resignators, Bertha Control & DJ Schleke
Tickets available from or call 1300THEHIFI

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Duff Review: Phoenix City All-stars "Two Tone Gone Ska"

Phoenix City Records/Cherry Red Records

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Imagine if the classic This Are Two Tone compilation had been interpreted and arranged by the sixties-era Skatalites and you'll have a good idea of what the Phoenix City All-stars' stellar Two Tone Gone Ska album is all about (they're marketing it themselves as "2 Tone meets Studio One," which is pretty apt). These versions of 2 Tone's greatest hits (forever embedded in the heads of every self-respecting ska fan worldwide) are surprisingly smart and fresh--providing the listener with a new--albeit vintage sounding--perspective on these very familiar and treasured tracks.

Things kick off with Prince Buster's foundational instrumental  "One Step Beyond" (of course, forever immortalized by Madness in 1979), which here is given such a fantastic, traditional ska reading that it sounds like Tommy McCook, Roland Alphonso, Lester Sterling, Don Drummond, and Co. recorded it back in 1963. A terrific, lively instrumental version of The Specials' "Stereotype" features a vocal line that is split between an Ernest Ranglin-ish guitar and a melodica (but you'll still be singing the words in your mind!). While the Phoenix City All-stars' "Tears of a Clown" (originally by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles)--with the great Dave Barker on vocals--discards The Beat's breakneck speed and rhythmic complexity (as well as Saxa's propulsive sax blasts) in favor of a stripped-down sound and rocksteady beat, this winning version can stand proudly alongside The Beat's (and it'll be yet another compelling take on this song etched in your brain!).

As much as I love Madness' "The Prince," it has this awkward, jerky ska/rocksteady rhythm to it that has never quite worked. However, in the hands of the Phoenix City All-stars it really swings here--and the ice rink organ taking on the vocal part sounds like Jackie Mittoo or Winston Wright (even King Hammond!) behind the keyboard (it's hard to dance to the original "Prince," but you can really groove to this). The Phoenix City All-stars' version of Neol Davies' seminal single "The Selecter" (AKA "Kingston Affair") is kind of a shock at first listen. You fully expect to hear an approximation of the hot summery insect buzz of the percussion, the crisp ska rhythm guitar, and then the lazy and haunting trombone line. Instead, one is hit with a very brisk and brilliant sixties big ska band rendition of this track.

The non-ska 2 Tone single that got (given) away, Elvis Costello's "I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down" (originally by Sam and Dave) finally receives a boss ska treatment with Dave Barker's sweet, high tenor floating effortlessly on top (though I have to say our own Bluebeats do a great ska take on this song, too). Arguably the most significant and magnificent 2 Tone cut, The Specials' "Ghost Town" is revved up and has more bite and minor-key tension with The Skatalites' massive horn sound that is broken by a wonderfully ringing Lynn Taitt-like guitar coming in for the "Do you remember the good old days before the ghost town?" vocal part (the original depicts the desolation and desperation of Thatcherite England, while here it sounds like you're experiencing the frustration boiling over, as youth of all colors run riot in the streets...).

Lastly, The Specials' "Too Much Too Young"--which borrowed heavily from Lloyd Charmer's "Birth Control" in both melody and subject matter--is remixed as "Too Much Too Dub" and seamlessly alternates between the two versions of the song (The Specials' bass line vs. Charmer's keyboard riff), as if a selector is shifting the crossfader back and forth on the mixer. This is a terrific manner in which to illustrate the evolution, if you will, of this track from one band to another, as well as celebrate the connection and admiration the 2 Tone bands had for their Jamaican musical forebears (check out all of the sixties ska cuts The Specials, The Selecter, The Beat, Madness, etc. covered here).

To be honest, I was a bit skeptical about this album before I actually had the chance to hear it--these tracks have been endlessly mined by bands worldwide and haven't always yielded positive results. But the Phoenix City All-stars' vision and daring in their approach to the 2 Tone catalogue works incredibly well. Rarely have I liked and enjoyed an album of covers as much as this one.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Preview New Split EP from The Snails and The Heavy Beat

Here's a chance to preview two cuts off the upcoming split album The Snails Meet The Heavy Beat at the Underground Echo Cellar--out next week--from two of our favorite (relatively) new bands, The Snails (rocksteady/soul/ska from Philadelphia, PA) and The Heavy Beat (reggae/ska from Allentown, PA). Keep on eye on their respective FB pages for how to score a copy of the complete record.

Definitely some great musical things going on in the Keystone State!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Duff Review: The Frightnrs EP

Digital 6-track EP
Available via Bandcamp

(Review by Steve Shafer)

The Frightnrs have got such an authentic reggae/rub-a-dub vibe going that by the time I finished listening to their remarkable new self-titled EP (which sports a rich and warm sound thanks to Victor "Ticklah" Axelrod and Agent Jay), I was unsure if what I had heard were mostly originals or covers of obscure tunes learned from well-worn 45s unearthed from the depths of the best used record store I've never yet had the pleasure to find. For the record--and I double checked with Frightnrs ace keyboardist Chuck Patel about all this--the only track they version is Jackie Mittoo's sublime "Ram Jam" on "Walkin'." But check out a track like "Zombieland"--with its frustratingly familiar keyboard riff (for about a day it drove me crazy that I couldn't figure out what it sounded like, but finally had the revelation that it mimics the vocal line from The Congos' "La La Bam Bam"--but then again, it also reminded me of Desmond Dekker's "Pretty Africa")--or anything else on this stellar six-track EP and you'll be stunned by how much this band understands, live in, and loves rocksteady, 70s reggae, and early dancehall.

With its killer vintage Jackie Mittoo/Harry J organ lines, the bubbly yet edgy "& I Wouldn't Tell You This" ("...if I didn't really care") corners you to bestow some wisdom on you via half a dozen proverbs and maxims--and even hilariously re-defines some of them ("It don't mean you're weak/if you turn the other cheek/As long as you come back around/and smack their face"). Knowledge is power, right? "Evening Time" is an answer record to Maddie Ruthless' track of the same name off her new album (about a couple only having the nighttime to share together, since the rest of their time is devoted to eking out a living); this one's from the boys' point of view ("The only time I feel alive/in the evening time/The only place I feel alright/with your hand in mine/So meet me at the familiar spot/that's where I'll be/'Cause I've been there a million times/waiting patiently/in the evening time"). If there's a way to translate the lonely beauty and shrouded mystery of nighttime and the feelings of anxiety, anticipation, and gonzo ecstasy when you're crazy in love into music, this is how it would sound--it's that perfect.

The urgent, minor-key, and damn catchy "Ties Been Severed" captures the singer stunned in the wake of a break-up, but not remotely ready to give up on his lady ("Now, the ties you have to sever/I'll stop loving you--never!/Not as I'm grieving/'Cause no matter what you do/I'll spend my whole life loving you/Still believing, oh yeah.") The sax and keyboard trade some great riffs here. "Walkin'" is another exceptionally smooth 'n' romantic pitch (via the aforementioned "Ram Jam" rhythm) to a special lady: "Walkin'/baby, I walk to you/and you know that it's true, yeah/Talking/baby, I talk with you/Hope/that you'll come back to me/Longing/baby, I long for you/and you know that it's true, yeah..."

Exhorting the listener to "think for yourself and trust your instincts," "Zombieland" decries how we're all "living a no see dem there...zombie dem all around" (shades of They Live!). The threat to humanity here isn't from zombifying infection or attack from the zombie hordes (see 28 Days Later or World War Z)--it's from people not using their own brains on a daily basis and opening themselves up to being manipulated/exploited by more powerful forces in pursuit of their own pernicious agendas. (Pretty much sums up the current Citizens United state of affairs in the USA right now, doesn't it?)

I have to say that The Frightnrs EP is one the most compelling new releases I've heard in a while--and it absolutely is on The Duff Guide to Ska's list of "best ska/reggae releases of 2012."

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For a limited time, The Frightnrs EP may be downloaded for free from Bandcamp (but please consider paying something for it...this music has great value to it and the band obviously worked overtime to make something this incredibly good).

Thursday, August 2, 2012

3rd Wave Ska Preservation Society Reissue Project Round 2

From the dudes at Asbestos Records and Underground Communique Records who brought us the fantastic Ska is Dead 7" series (you can subscribe Volume 2 now) and the first batch of vinyl reissues of popular (for the ska scene, that is), but long out-of-print albums from the ska boom of the 1990s (The Pilfers, The Pietasters, Suburban Legends, and Edna's Goldfish) comes The 3rd Wave Ska Preservation Society Reissue Project Round 2. This Kickstarter project hopes to press new, expanded color vinyl reissues of The Toasters' Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down, The Stubborn All-Stars' Back with a New Batch, The Slackers' International War Criminal, and the Bruce Lee Band's Bruce Lee Band.

Interested parties can make a pledge toward a particular release for about $20-25 or go for all four records for $70 (and there are, of course, additional perks at higher levels).

For this project to go forward, they need to raise $15,000 by September 7, 2012 (and as of this date, they are a little over half way there, which is great, since I've made a pledge myself and want to get my mitts on some of these records!).

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Free Download of the New Beatdown Single "Walkin' Proud"

Fans of dirty/skinhead reggae will want to get over to the Stomp Records site to download a free copy of The Beatdown's cool new single--"Walkin' Proud"-- off their forthcoming album of the same name (to be released on August 28, 2012).

(To read The Duff Guide to Ska's review of their s/t debut album, go here.)