Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Duff Gig Review: The Reggay Lords and The Copacetics at Electric Avenue on 2/23/13!

Wot: The Reggay Lords and The Copacetics
When: Saturday, March 23, 2013
Where: Electric Avenue at Characters NYC, Manhattan

(Write-up by Steve Shafer)

The day before our event, Electric Avenue's start time had to be pushed back a bit, as the pub booked a last-minute party in their back room for a guy whose fiance broke off their engagement the weekend of their wedding! (Since he had all of his friends in town anyway, they decided to have a condolence party of sorts.) I set up my DJ equipment and started spinning some ska tracks during the last hour of their event (was it too cheeky of me to kick off my set with The Beat's cover of "Tears of a Clown"?!), and a bunch of the ex-groom-to-be's guests hung out for part, if not all, of the night's performances.

Since we had some extra time to hang around, Marc and I spent some time with Larry, one of the afternoon barkeeps who grew up in Ireland and went to shows by just about every punk and post-punk band that I was listening to on WLIR when I was a teenager lost in Yonkers in the first half of the 1980s. Over a few beers, he told us stories from the times he saw The Undertones, The Jam, Bob Marley, Secret Affair, The Buzzcocks, The Ruts, The Clash, Joe Strummer, The Tom Robinson B and and more, as well as music-related tales from the football terraces and city streets, where daring to be different was an open invitation to all for a beating from cops and fellow citizens alike. Every time I talk with Larry, I learn something new about some of my favorite bands. So, if you're ever at Characters when he's behind the bar, make sure to ask him about your favorite post-punk act and be prepared to be schooled by a man who experienced it all first-hand.

For this night, The Copacetics had journeyed down I-95 from Providence, Rhode Island for their first NYC gig ever (at Electric Avenue, no less) and it was cool to see/hear their mix of ska with blues, early 50s rock, soul, and Doo-wop. Singer, trombonist, and band manager Matt D. (one of the nicest people I've met lately, actually) led this young band through a terrific, lively, and fun set of 14 tunes, mostly originals (See "Cookies" and "I Don't Know" below) with some choice covers--including Laurel Aitken's calypso cut "Zombie Jamboree" and the essential rocksteady song "Love Me Forever," by Carlton and The Shoes. (Any ska bands looking for a place to play between NYC and Boston should get in touch with Matt D. and The Copacetics--they organize regular gigs in Providence area and will hook you up in front of a crowd! Top bands like The Toasters, The Allstonians, and The Scofflaws already have shared the stage with them...)

While it's highly entertaining just to witness The Reggay Lords performing in powdered wigs, puffy shirts, velvet robes, and masks (facetiously condescending to us "commoners," like they are out of King Louis XVI's court--read my Duff Guide to Ska interview with Lord Point for a taste)--you might be tempted to dismiss their act as shtick.

But don't let their preposterous costumes deceive you. The Reggay Lords (really, a NYC-area supergroup comprised of members of The Forthrights, The Hard Times, The Rudie Crew, and The Slackers) are the real deal--and are making some of the best rocksteady and reggae you could ever hope for. Plus, their extraordinary new, self-titled digital album is probably one of the best and most original-sounding releases you'll hear all year. No kidding. (Someone, please, please, please put this out on vinyl!)

Led by vocalist Lord Point--who somehow managed to hold onto his giant goblet brimming with Guinness for the majority of their set--The Reggay Lords played most of the songs off their stellar debut album--about chasing good times; being able to get what you want; battling for power in a relationship; women who do you bad; how money won't fix all problems; throwing off one's oppressors; questioning the real meaning of freedom; and an anti-Pope diatribe--plus a few others (notably, "Stereo On," which is about the simple joys of listening to music and how it makes live worth living, is a new absolutely favorite cut of mine). Their set and performances were spot-on fantastic (doubters can screen the videos I shot below) and I'm definitely eager to see 'em again soon! Ska, rocksteady, and reggae fans should be mad scrambling to see them and picking up their ($6!) digital album. Do your part!

Which brings me to a little bit of editorializing...

While people are beginning to hype what they are calling the "fourth wave" of ska (though ironically enough this seems to be based on the considerable nostalgic enthusiasm for reformed ska bands popular in the 1990s--not that there's anything wrong with loving these bands; in fact, there's a lot to love!), many of the acts, both new and old, that have been keeping the scene going--continually playing gigs on the underground and releasing vital new music during the 2000s and beyond--very much deserve fans' interest and support. (I'm always psyched to learn about great new bands/releases!) They've been the ones taking on the chin during the lean years, so please consider making that extra effort to show up to at least a few gigs each month (remember when seeing bands play live was fun--well, it still is! Why else do you think I help organize the Electric Avenue nights for free?) and spending the ridiculously little amount of cash on buying a digital download, CD, or LP (the price of buying recorded music is generally cheaper than it was in the 1990s!).

If there is going to be a sustainable "fourth wave" (can't we think of a better name with which to brand it?!), it can't be built on nostalgia alone. So, dig deeper. You'll find all sorts of fantastic new bands and releases to feast on!

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