Thursday, December 6, 2012

2012 - A year in Skankin' Review

I have had few more emotionally and physically complicated years than this one in my life. It was a steady road of giant potholes and speed bumps taking me from emergency rooms to specialists and tests while putting my mental well being and my very nerves through paper shredders. Somewhere between a broken heart and a major health scare, I found my voice again in the embrace of the welcoming arms of an old friend.

The ska scene. And the many devoted people in it.

This was the year my radio show moved to a new home. My format swap was finally complete. No longer was I commuting to a studio in the next state...but simply my kitchen. The control was mine, and my intentions were finally realized and completed...while I am still ironing out the kinks (and learning all the software). My blog gained it's major following with a lot of help and support from the very artists who inspired it in the first place. It's one thing to be able to freely write about the people that move you so much. It is nothing short of a gift that they give you back that same support and promotion. I owe a lot to some seriously amazing people. So without further delay, I present to you A Perfect Mess...A Year In Review 2012.

Most Memorable Shows:
1.) The Slackers booze cruise. It's no secret that I am a Slackers fan. A big one. I have seen them before, but there is nothing like a band you love on a boat. It's the music, the beer, the people, and the energy...and NOTHING topped the energy on the boat that night. It was the first show I went to with my very dear friend Roy Radics of NYC's own Rudie Crew...and going to a show with Roy is like going to a town festival with the mayor. Introductions all around, and I love Roy because he always introduces me like I am someone important. I describe what I do as minor music journalism...he introduces me as if my blog were Rolling Stone. I adore him. That night, there was a thunderstorm. The boat was rocking all over the place. (and hot!) We were often grabbing one another as strangers to keep from falling down, and laughing as if we were forever friends. There is an atmosphere at a Slackers show that is just not present anywhere else. I went up front when Roy was called to the stage, and spent the rest of the show singing and dancing along like a goofball. It was one of the best nights of my year. I can't remember ever having that much fun at a show.


2.) The Pietasters booze cruise. Another boat with Roy Radics. I swear if there is ska on a boat, we are probably both on it. It was also a night of long overdue introductions to my now dear sister in show going/man oogling/booze sipping/ska dancing shenanigans, Michelle Ska...though she does NOT remember meeting it was her birthday, and she was fershnickered. (we made up for it later with a Mustard Plug show in Stanhope) More beer, more dancing, more sweating, more following Roy to the front and then staying up there and dancing around like I do. I could not have picked better songs for them to do either. It was such a great night.

Photo credit: James Walker

Most UnMemorable Show:
Rob's Birthday show out in Wilks Barre, PA with the Hub City Stompers and the Rudie Crew...where I drank too much whiskey and passed out on Rob's kitchen floor. It was a fucking AMAZING good time before memory is spotty...

...poor Randy...and Drunky McDrunkleface

Best Albums of the Year:

The Shifters - In It!
This batch of amazing comes straight out of DC. Steve Jackson suggested these guys to me in an interview earlier in the year, and he was right about how good they are. I have played a song from this album on every show I have done since I got it. For the record, I don't play anything that sucks, and there is little I play THIS much. It's the perfect blend of brass and vocals with every other component of the band expertly threaded in between. It's excellent straight though, and I was addicted at first listen. Very melodic, dance provoking, totally clean and well mixed. The vocals are gorgeous. All in all, it's an amazing album start to finish. I missed these guys when they were up here last. I am begging and pleading for them to come back. They will knock your socks off. Don't believe me? You can grab yourself a copy of In It! from The Shifters from Stubborn Records right HERE.

The Pandemics - Brain On Tap
I love this album for the simple fact that it's heavy, super brassy fun. FUN. Something a lot of bands are missing lately. Stop being so serious and make me dance, for fucks sake! The Pandemics are all over that. It's eight pieces of tight, clean ska that can do third wave flavor as easily as they throw down a classic Trojan groove. They have the style and know-how to take this music, mix it up, throw it around, and get a crowd moving. I know...I have seen them live, and they seriously floored me with how tight they were. The Pandemics are a truly vibrant example of the modern New York ska scene, and I think you can expect to be seeing these guys around a lot more in the coming year. You can get yourself a copy of Brain on Tap by The Pandemics right HERE.

The Pinstripes - I
WOW. That is all I could say the first time I heard this album all the way through. The first track alone blew me away, and it's been on heavy rotation on my show ever since. Put on Might Be Her Fool and crank it the fuck up. You will not be able to sit still. These guys blend a traditional rocksteady groove with ska and soul and come out with something so incredible, it left me speechless. This is a hot, hot record. It's got something for everyone...from soft and melodic to kick you in the ass and get up and dancing energy. Not to mention, these guys are versatile. I tell this to everyone I suggest this record to, and I will tell it to you now. Click on over to I'll Be Waiting. This song blew me away. Beautiful pop and soul to start you off. I reviewed this album a month ago. The best way I could describe this song in my review was to say that halfway through, "the song changes into this piece of sensual, powerful straight up soul music...building in intensity and emotion to the end before climaxing quietly and sweetly. Probably would cuddle you and give you cab fare too." Don't take my word for it. Go get it yourself right HERE.

Most Memorable Ska Bands Of The Year FOR ME:
I figured I had to be somewhat specific in that one. These mentions did not necessarily release an album this year, or have any major shows. But I found them, or they found me, or they were give to me, or they just knocked my socks off somehow this year. Maybe they were just nice to me. Sometimes that really does do it for me...

The Dropsteppers:
I am their album Get Up In It. I cannot get it off my iPod, my Spotify, or out of my head. I found myself singing Hot Mess to myself when I was jogging the other day. I purposely left my iPod home, and I was singing it anyway. When The Band Plays is amazing. Extraordinary Woman get's played CONSTANTLY on my show.

Obi Fernandez:
This should really be under top albums, but it's not exclusive to his sol stuff, as I also got more into Westbound Train this year. I was recently interview for the Duff Guide to Ska, and I wracked my brain trying to think of an adequate descriptive for his voice. I came up with cherry cheesecake. It's smooth, it's sweet, it's fucking delicious. He is a simply amazing vocalist and songwriter.

Green Room Rockers:
I can't tell you how many times I listen to the song Twenty Five on their self titled album. It's such a great song from such a truly great album. I have been meaning to chase these guys down for an interview and a write-up on this album. It's in the cards. I am in love with this album.

The Rudie Crew:
Not only one of my biggest supporters, Roy Radics of the Rudie Crew is also an amazing front man to one of my very favorite aspects of the NYC ska and reggae scene. A weaving of expert musicians from all over the map, their sound is fresh with dancehall flavor and traditional groove. They are also one of my favorite live bands in this scene. I have never seen a bad Rudie Crew performance. I first caught them at a Toasters show early this year, and was just floored. I could not stand still. It's been a good time ever since. Plus, they are just a great bunch of guys that I have had more than a few laughs (and pints) with.

The Bandulus:
I can't say enough. I just did an interview with the very awesome Jeremy Pena about the band and the new album. I am a sucker for vocals, as I have said many times before, and Jeremy's are just hypnotic and fresh. His style is so much his own. From his work with The Bandulus to the acoustic stuff I have heard from him, I am just floored. I was so excited to get the new album and I have played it every week since. Prior to that, I delighted in playing things off the last one. This new album is still making it's way into all my nooks and crannies, but thus's becoming an addiction.

The Snails:
I freaking LOVE these guys. Not only are they young and fresh and talented, they as individuals are just bleeding genuine energy that is infectious and addicting all on their own. They are heading out on the Version City Tour with King Django and Matt MacLeod and you really need to go see them. I caught them for the first time backing Sammy Kay at Skalapalooza and could not believe my ears...and that was not even them being THEM. They are poised to be our first installment in our upcoming documentary series, and I think filming them will be just as much fun as anything else. These guys are really, really insanely talented musicians and great people. You will be seeing more from them. Mark my words.

And most memorable Ska Moments of 2012:

~ Seeing my podcast ranked in the Top 50 for Reggae last month. I am simply floored that as many people listen to me as do. It's an incredible thing, and I can't begin to say how thankful I am.

~ Ringing in my 34th birthday at Skalapalooza in NYC with Agent Jay and a shot of tequila...Jay, who was nice enough to let me pull his ear all night about our documentary and never once said, "Hey, yeah...I have to go...I have a thing..." like I expected him to.

~ Having a wicked vertigo attack on the I7/Mepheskapheles booze cruise and very nearly passing out repeatedly until the boat docked. Special thanks to Roy Radics for being my guardian all night, and my very sweet and wonderful friend Thora Phillips for walking arm in arm with my through the village telling everyone she was my date when in reality she was helping me walk steady and keeping me from falling down.

~ My first show with Michelle Ska, my long lost sister. It was Mustard Plug with the amazing Void Union. I didn't think there was someone THAT much like me anywhere in the world. Look out everyone...there is. And now we hang out...nothing good can come of this...

~ Seeing my show's logo on the Version City Tour poster. Now, this may seem silly to other people. But you have to understand how far this show has come. How much work I have done. How much money, time, blood, sweat, and tears have gone into building what I have. I was so happy to be able to throw down for this tour...for amazing artists...and to see my logo up there...well, that is just amazing.

~ My documentary series, Crazy Skankin' Mess, finally coming together. Special mention has to go out first to my friend Chris DiNardo of NeverImage Entertainment for still being my friend and getting on board with my editing and the sorting of all my weird, unconventional ideas. Second, my very dear friend and fellow ska freak Randy from Ska Crazy...who not only believes in my ideas, but actually wanted to be my partner in this project. Plus he listens to all my bullshit, and that alone should be a paying job.

So there you have it. A brief snippet of my year. It's been a rough one at times, but I have to thank everyone for taking part and making the rest of it so freaking amazing. I will continue to do what I do for the new year, and then some. I have added booking shows to my resume, so we will see where this goes. In the meantime, you can count on the show being there every week, the blog being there every month, and me being here trying to keep it all together.

Thank you!

Special thanks: David Hillyard for the second chance interview, Keith Duncan for being an amazing human, Rob Alapick for all your suggestions and lectures, Tim and Todd from the Snails for cookie talk, Lindsay best friend in the world who does not like ska but humors my love and passion for all that I do with the biggest smile she can, Michelle ska who loves ska more than any human being on the planet, Stephen Shafer who inspired my blog and continues to help promote me, King Django for being King Django, Randy Jarrell for the suggestions, pistachios, beer, beer stealing, and almost making me pass out from laughing on the porch of the Stanhope House, Mandy and Rob...the first couple of ska, Thora and Chad...the first couple of punk and Oi, and my amazing, intelligent, deep soul son Josiah...who believes in all my crazy dreams, thinks I'm cool, and reminds me to be the best person I can every single day of my life.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Bandulus - The Times We Had and an interview with Jeremy Pena

I will admit it. My only knowledge of Texas was what I learned from Urban Cowboy (...I'm slightly obsessed with it) and that the Houston airport smelled like popcorn last time I went through there on my way to San Antonio. I'm not proud. But it seems in Texas, there was also the Bandulus. I was a late Bandulus bloomer.

My partner in ska crimes and documentary filming, Randy from Ska Crazy, did an interview with me on his show after we started working on our filming plans. He opened that particular show with the song Ska, Reggae, and Soul by the Bandulus, and that was the first time I had ever heard it. I don't know what it was that hit me the hardest. I am a sucker for vocals, so that was a major factor...but the song itself is just a perfect descriptive of exactly what it talks about. I immediately told Randy I wanted this to be my theme song. I needed some guy to follow me around with a boombox playing this song for the rest of my life. That was it. I was hooked.

I freaking love The Bandulus.

Singer, keyboardist, and founder Jeremy Pena put the Bandulus together in the summer of 2008. Their first album, SKA.REGGAE.SOUL was released two years later and featured the talents of Vic Ruggiero of the Slackers, Ryan Scroggins, Matt Jacobs, Willy Camero and Patrick Kelly, both formerly of The Stingers ATX. The album is soulful and grooving while being so different. Jeremy's voice is very much his own, and it's strong but almost hypnotic. In a world so overrun by voice enhancements and Autotune, thank fucking god people still sing. He has the perfect voice for this music...powerful and soothing and a little bit gruff but only where it needs to be. Yep, I'm hooked.

I have been eagerly awaiting the release of their most recent album, The Times We Had...and it was finally up for download a couple weeks ago. It's already gone on my list of favorite albums for 2012. Don't believe me? Ask my piece in Duff Guide To Ska. I have been playing songs from it on my show since it came out, and that is not anything I expect to be stopping any time soon...except to play songs from the last album as well. I just wish I was able to see them. I think a trip to Texas is in order...

Jeremy was nice enough to answer some questions for me about the band, the album, and what grooves him these days.

First of all, where did the name The Bandulus come from?

Bandulus (pronounced BAN-DOO-LOOS) is Jamaican patios for criminal, bandit, or thief. I use to DJ all of our shows and my dj moniker is Proper Villain Soundsystem, so I decided to keep the theme of a villain. I know it's hard to say and read, but it's different and catchy, I think. Then I found out that there's another band from NYC named The Bandulos. Different spelling, same meaning.

What was it that first got you into this music?

I was about 15 when I first heard the Give Em The Boot 1 CD. There was a song called "Watch This". I was immediately hooked. Who is this? I asked my friend TJ. He told me The Slackers, and I just had to have more of this vintage sound. I think that was the year that Wasted Days came out and it just so happen that they were playing a 2 night party at Flamingo Cantina in Austin. So with that being said, I was front and center both nights. Who knew that 7 years later Victor Ruggiero would record organ on our ska.reggae.soul record.

Are there particular artists who have been major influences on you?

Honestly if it wasn't for The Slackers, We would not be around. They taught me that Americans can play Jamaican music, and still make it their own.

You have played with some amazing and notable acts...the Slackers, The Aggrolites, The Skatalites, etc. Do you have a favorite? 

Hands down it's The Slackers. I love love love The Skatalites, but The Slackers have so much more depth than just ska. And on this last tour we were on with them, they invited me on stage for the encore practically every night. I finally got to sing the lead for them! Definitely a dream come true.

Tell me a little about putting together The Times We Had...

Well we started recording it way back in January of 2011. All the drums, bass, and most of my rhythm guitar was finished that first day. The record was supposed to be released a year ago, but due to a busted van and a busted tour I was really bummed and put it all on the back burner for 6 months. Finally the summer of 2012 came and I was out of the depression and put things into over drive. There are still a few things I wish I would have recorded on there, but I felt that it was way past due and decided that it was "good enough".

As 2012 comes to a close, do you have any plans, hopes, aspirations for The Bandulus in the new year?

Yes! I'm talking to my California buds about a possible tour right now. I've also been talking to Mark from Green Room Rockers and Keith Duncan from The Shifters hoping to get something together with them in both the Midwest and east coast. So that would pretty much cover the US. Nothing in stone yet, but I'll let you know asap!

What is in your CD player/on your iPod/on your turntable right now? 

I've been listening to a lot of the new Menahan Street Band and Lee Fields. I also just rediscovered the Radiation Kings record. Oh and The Frightnrs EP is too short. I love that record. They are killing it right now.

Get YOUR copy of the amazing album The Times We Had for only $8 lousy dollars HERE!!!

You can, and should be following the Bandulus on Facebook HERE

The Version City Tour hits the road!

I am so excited about this, I could just spit.

The amazing, highly influential, and always delightful King Django will be taking to the road with The Heavy Beat's Matt MacLeod and The Snails for The Version City Tour! It's a total mind-blowing mash-up of talent and from the snippets I hear around about the rehearsals, we are all in for a good damn time. A Perfect Mess is freaking ELATED to be a sponsor of the tour, and I can't wait to get out to see it all go down. The tour is gearing up to kick off in less than two weeks, officially on December 15th in New London, CT. It will run through the balance of 2012 and then through most of January before finishing up in Harrisburg, PA on January 20th. I plan to be there. With bells on. Here is the official press release with a listing of dates and cities...if you don't get out to see this, I don't know what to do with you:

Version City Tour to Bring New York Ska to the Rest of the East Coast

New Brunswick, NJ -- November 13, 2012 -- This winter King Django, former front man of Stubborn All-Stars and founder of Stubborn Records, will embark on a month long tour of the east coast with musical support from Philadelphia reggae act The Snails and Matt MacLeod of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania's soul-reggae troupe The Heavy Beat. Kicking off December 15 from New London, Connecticut, the tour will touch down in cities all along the eastern seaboard reaching deep into Florida before returning to the Northeast in mid-January.

                The Version City Tour aims to spread the positive vibrations of New York City’s seminal Version City Parties where, since 1997, Django and friends have hosted countless ska, rocksteady and reggae bands, artists and DJs to share and celebrate their love for the roots and offshoots of Jamaican music.

                In the words of Steve Shafer, operator of the popular ska blog Duff Guide to Ska, "This winter, some of the best musicians [of] the US ska scene are banding together ... and bringing the ska to the people." King Django and the Snails have joined forces once before, running a short tour through New England in January of 2012. The "old-school" King Django has said he is excited to take this group of "young upstarts" on the road for the second time.

                Coinciding with the tour, Stubborn Records will be releasing a new full-length King Django CD entitled “Anywhere I Roam” as well as The Snails’ debut vinyl 7” EP "The River," both recorded at Version City Studios. The tour will also signify Matt MacLeod's first efforts as a band leading solo artist, deviating from his usual role as co-leader of the Heavy Beat. Overall, the Version City Tour will be a monumental event for all artists involved.

                Fans and concert goers can expect to be treated to a plethora of musical sounds and styles ranging from traditional Jamaican ska, rocksteady and reggae to American soul and rhythm & blues.
To learn more about the Version City Tour, check and for show listings and samples of each bands' music, and be sure to follow the tour as it heads south this winter on Twitter @versioncitytour.

Confirmed tour dates:
2012 DEC 15 SAT New London, CT El'n'Gee
2012 DEC 16 SUN Providence, RI Firehouse 13
2012 DEC 20 THU Washington, DC BlueBeat DC @ Solly's Tavern
2012 DEC 22 SAT Rehoboth Beach, DE Dogfish Head Brewing
2012 DEC 27 THU Baltimore, MD Ottobar
2012 DEC 29 SAT Durham, NC The Casbah
2012 DEC 30 SUN Columbia, SC New Brookland Tavern
2013 JAN 1 TUE Jacksonville, FL Burro Bar
2013 JAN 2 WED Sanford, FL The West End Trading Co.
2013 JAN 3 THU Orlando, FL The Social
2013 JAN 4 FRI Jupiter, FL Guanabana's
2013 JAN 5 SAT Lake Worth, FL Propaganda
2013 JAN 6 SUN Coral Gables, FL Books and Books
2013 JAN 7 MON Pompano Beach, FL Mickey's Bar
2013 JAN 8 TUE Miami, FL Churchill's
2013 JAN 9 WED Cape Coral, FL Rack'Em Billiards
2013 JAN 10 THU Sarasota, FL The Blue Rooster
2013 JAN 11 FRI St. Petersburg, FL Local 662
2013 JAN 12 SAT Gainesville, FL The Atlantic
2013 JAN 13 SUN Tallahassee, FL The Shark Tank
2013 JAN 14 MON Pensacola, FL The Handle Bar
2013 JAN 16 WED Atlanta, GA Asylum
2013 JAN 20 SUN Harrisburg, PA Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center