Thursday, October 18, 2012

Duff Gig Review: Destroy Babylon and The Frightnrs at Electric Avenue (at Characters NYC) on 10/13/12

(By Steve Shafer)

I really had no idea of what to expect for the third Electric Avenue ska/reggae night (our debut featured The Snails and King Django; the second, Doomsday/Meph Tribute by Meph members, Bigger Thomas, and Beat Brigade)--apart from the fact that the two bands featured on the bill, Destroy Babylon and The Frightnrs, would be certain to serve up some incredible performances. The evening started up fortuitously enough. After I had set up the DJ equipment, my friend Joe (who also graciously served as our door person, collecting the cover to be split between the two bands) and I bellied up to the bar for some grub and a pint before the event started. The afternoon bartender, Larry, had finished his shift and was sitting a stool away from us and struck up a conversation about the bands that were playing later. I described each band's style of reggae, which led him to rave about Linton Kwesi Johnson and his Dread Beat an' Blood and Forces of Victory albums, as well as LKJ's tracks, "Sonny's Lettah" (about the pernicious Sus laws at the time) and "Inglan is a Bitch," which is a fave of mine. He then recounted his teen years in Dublin and the punk acts he had seen and loved that introduced him to reggae, like The Clash and The Ruts (he had also caught The Jam, The Buzzcocks, The Undertones, The Specials, and many more). Larry then told us he had picked up a copy of Vive Le Rock recently which included a free CD that contained a track from a ska band he wanted to recommend to me: The Skints (I've heard the name, but not their music)! All of this just goes to show the world is sometimes much smaller than we think, and you never know who is just one barstool away in a pub in midtown Manhattan!

Another surprising aspect of the evening that manifest itself while both acts were loading in their equipment. Both acts are bands of brothers: The Frightnrs have Chuck (organ) and Preet (bass) Patel, while Destroy Babylon has twins John (bass) and Marc (drums) Beaudette. And, maybe it was just me, but both bands seemed all the more tighter because of these familial bonds (you don't have to believe me, the proof's in the videos below).

Around 45 or 50 people had filled the back room of Characters by the time The Frightnrs started their set at 10:00 pm and they wowed the crowd with their sweet, brilliantly authentic rub-a-dub sounds--kicking off with Dawn Penn's rocksteady classic "You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)." They played several original cuts off their extraordinary, self-titled EP (one of the best new recordings I've heard this year--The Duff Guide to Ska review can be read here; and you can download the EP for free here, but please pay something, as this music is something you'll treasure), including "Walking," "Evening Time," "And I Wouldn't Tell You This," and "Ties Been Severed." Other highlights of their set included "Champion Bubbler," "Admiration," and "Full Up Riddim Ride." One of the many things that I love about this band is that they have the early dancehall sound down so well that you're never completely positive if you're hearing an original track or a tantalizingly familiar riddim track whose name is just on the tip of your tongue. The Frightnrs put on an excellent, tight live show (as captured in the videos I shot below)--so make a point to seem them, as they are, without a doubt, one of NYC's finest.

The roots-rock-reggae powerhouse that is Destroy Babylon went on around 11:30 pm, and by that time the back room of Characters was a large, raucous, enthusiastic, and well lubricated mass (helped by the fact that many in the audience had come over from Comic Con--one of the DB members was working at a booth there earlier in the day). We were thrilled to be able to feature this Boston band, which we've been wanting to see ever since hearing their stellar, socially/politically conscious album, Long Live the Vortex (read The Duff Guide to Ska review of it here). DB performed a good number of tracks off Vortex, including "DB, Inc.," "Bad Draw," "Mr. Money Bags," "#1 Killer," "Free the King" and "Freeze"--as well as some other original cuts like "Come Over" (sung by the fantastic Kelli Webb) and "Cold Blooded Killer." Plus they snuck in some really choice covers in their set, like The Clash's "Guns of Brixton," an incredible reggae reading of David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel," The Misfits' "Hollywood Babylon" (also with Kelli), and a dread version of The English Beat's "Mirror in the Bathroom." Destroy Babylon put on one hell of a good live show (again, watch the videos below and you'll get a good sense of what you're in for when you see them) and many more NYC-area ska and reggae fans really, really need to get to know this band (you'll have that chance sometime in 2013, as we hope to bring them back down from Beantown for another Electric Avenue night over the winter).

1 comment:

Kames Jelly said...

I found all my old Version City Party tickets earlier tonight and it turns out I saw Destroy Babylon back in 2008.