...so to answer the question from my previous blog, it IS indeed possible to dance on a boat. Even when that boat is a rockin' due to the very flashy thunderstorm happening over the East River that we happened to be floating around in. Not that it mattered. This was not some ordinary booze-cruise.
This was The Slackers.
I'm a Slackers fan. A big one. They are beyond a doubt one of my favorite bands. Ever. Period. I could probably sing you Redlight and Self-Medication from beginning to end without missing a word. They are in my constant iPod rotation, along with the rest of their releases. Vic Ruggiero is one of my most admired artists, both with The Slackers, and in his other collaborations and solo projects. Once this event was on my radar, I was going to get there. No matter what. It's been a rough few months for me for a myriad of reasons. I have not been out too much...and I needed it...but I was more excited for this show than I can remember being for much of anything in a long time.
North Jersey on a Friday in the summer is hell at rush hour. It's only worse trying to get yourself from Morris County to the Holland Tunnel. Three hours later, I was finally within some proximity of where these boats were apparently at. Not that I could find them. In a panic (no way I was missing this damn boat!), I parked my car at the first garage I found and hiked to the docks. I had the nicest garage guy ever who was in as great a mood as I was. This is probably why, in my rush, I forgot to ask him what it was going to cost me.
I met up with my friend Roy Radics of the Rudie Crew at the dock. I was not aware of this, but going to a show with Roy is like going with the mayor. He knows everyone. Or everyone knows him. Not surprising, as his and his band's own delicious breed of NY ska is steadily getting into clubs and ears all over. Plus he is a heck of a nice guy. Which of course made this evening all the better.
I had e-mailed someone off of the Slackers website some time ago to inquire about an interview. I had e-mailed Vic. I had sent notes to twitter and FB accounts. I think I said this before, but I am annoyingly persistent when I want something.
We walked onto the boat and up the stairs to the second level, and Roy stopped to talk to someone. I walked right past Vic Ruggiero and didn't even notice. In my defense, he was dressed as a sailor. I might have drooled a little. Thanks to a stellar introduction, I was able to pull Mr. Ruggiero's ear for a moment or two about this blog, this series, and he gladly agreed to an interview. I am holding you to it, sir. Look! It's in print!
We departed shortly after 8pm, and it was not long after that the Slackers hit the stage. The dance floor immediately filled, and even standing along to the side, I could not help myself but start moving. The Slackers remain one of the best live bands I have ever seen. Let alone in the ska scene itself, where they rank at the absolute top of my list. They are amazing live musicians, ready to ad lib and improvise where needed...even if just for the laugh of it. They don't show up and play a list of studio perfect, cold and compressed tracks, void of sincerity. They show up and throw out things you don't expect to hear, and everything you want to. They covered the Misfits. They threw out Watch This and Have The Time (which I could not help but dance around like a crazy person during).
Outside on the river, the storm kicked up at one point. Lightning streaked across the New York sky, and the boat would tip from side to side. In my head all I could see was Shelly Winters in the Poseidon Adventure. These were BIG tips! Radics and I would laugh and grab the tables (thankfully bolted to the floor) and I would look to the packed dance floor to see the crowd of people shift and grab one another for support. The dancing never stopped though. That's dedication! (or booze...)
The band played two sets, with a fifteen or twenty minute break in between. Though I was disappointed not to hear Make Me Smile, which ranks as one of my top five favorite songs...probably ever...they did a simply fucking fantastic version of David Lee Roth's Just a Gigolo, and an amazing cover of Sam Cooke's Cupid, completely laced and threaded with ska flavor. I had made my way to the front prior to this when Radics was called to the stage to do what he does best on the microphone. It was a ton of fun to watch the mashing of talents, all smiles across the stage. It was like that for the whole show, the whole band. Nothing makes a show better than performers who really, honestly LOVE what they do...and it is evident across the stage at a Slackers show. I stayed up front until the end. Dancing my tush off, and singing right back.
I walked back to the now slowly diluting crowd, and was probably smiling ear to ear. I don't think that dopey grin has left my face yet. I also found myself reminded of how different things are in this scene than others. I have been to a LOT of shows. I listen to all kinds of music, and I love the vibe and the energy of live music. But the ska scene, at least in New York and the East Coast in general is like that of a huge family. You see it in the bands. How much they support one another. They are in the crowds for one another's shows. They are pulling each other up on stage. Smiles all around. But beyond that, it's in the crowds. It's in the fans. Most shows I go to, there is a lot of shoving. When someone wants to get by you in a packed club, they simply push through. It's just the way it is. Impersonal, and cold.
Last night on this boat, I found myself on the sidelines for much of the show, in a direct line between the front door and back doors of the second level of the boat. This simply meant that there was a constant line of people coming through. There were not shoves though. When someone needed to get by, there was a hand on your back or your shoulder to let you know they were there, and an excuse me or a "sorry!" with a smile as they went through. When the boat would tip and someone would bump into you or grab at your for support, there were just smiles and laughter between us. The ska scene is different. And I love it. And I love The Slackers. They gave an amazing show. I am beyond disappointed that I am presently sitting on my couch in pajamas and not back on that boat for the second night's festivities.
By the time I made it back to pick up my very expensively parked car (next time I will pay more attention) from a very jovial attendant (I did appreciate that) I was on my way home. Still smiling. Eagerly awaiting my interviews with this incredible band of scene pioneers. Reminded of the many reasons this music moves me, this scene helped define me, and why so much of my heart is on that dance floor.