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Slacking off with The Slackers
Last week I headed to The Dunes Bar and Restaurant on 32nd Street to check out The Slackers, a ska band of sorts.
I am a fan of ska and I have been listening to The Slackers since I was in high school, so I had to hear them live.
The bar was packed with other ska enthusiasts as the band took the stage. The members are Vic Ruggiero on keyboards and vocals, Jay "Agent Jay" Nugent on guitar, Dave Hillyard on saxophone, Glen Pine on trombone and vocals, Marcus Geard on bass and Ara Babajian on drums.
It was great to see these legends of ska live and in person as I stood in the front row, not more than five feet from Vic and Dave. Vic likes to tell stories, Dave is killer on the saxophone and Glen knows how to play the ’bone.
But I do have one bone to pick with some of the Yumans in the audience. Toward the end of their set, Glen was in the middle of a "funky trombone solo" when a woman in the crowd literally yanked the microphone out of Vic's hand after a tug-of-war session with the singer. She proceeded to get up on stage and start rapping. How rude! Dave stopped immediately with a "what the..." look on his face as this person tried to sing and ruined his solo.
What's worse is one of the event organizers got up and took the mike from the woman, after what seemed like an eternity of horridly awkward lyrics, but then didn't hand it back to the band. Instead, he started singing for another eternity before the band finally just quit playing.
Yuma, this is why we can't get good talent here most of the time, because some members in the audience don't know how to act. If you want to sing on stage, fine, but do it at an open mike night. I fear The Slackers won't return now because they know the audience has no manners. It took them 13 years to come back this time.
OK, enough sermonizing. Besides that, the show was excellent. They reminded me a lot of Otis Day and the Knights, the band in the movie "Animal House," because they were very energetic and their music was easy to dance to. It was definitely good time-party music.
Their bass player, Marcus Geard, obviously had a fun personality as he took to the stage wearing a bright red fez. I guess he's allowed to be eccentric because he can really lay down some solid bass lines.
After the show I talked with guitarist Jay about his band. Here is what he said:
Chris McDaniel: "Why ska?"
Jay Nugent: "That's a good question. I don't even know."
CM: "You could be playing punk rock or something but you chose ska."
JN: "Yeah, but you have to look at what was happening at the time. When the band started, punk rock had been dead for like 10 years and that was before it was cool to be in a punk band. It was like the most uncool thing in the world to be in a punk band in 1991. Grunge was happening..."
CM: "Who are the original members?"
JN: "Vic and Marcus. Dave was in since ’93, Glen has been in since ’97, Ara joined in 2003 and I joined in 2004. I'm the newest guy."
CM: "The band hasn't been to Yuma in 13 years. Why did you come back?"
JN: "They gave us money to play the show. We play music and we love it, otherwise we'd just get real jobs. But at the end of the day, if somebody pays us, that's the bottom line. It costs money just to get here."
CM: "You have a new album."
JN: "The Great Rocksteady Swindle. It's on Hellcat (Records) and just came out barely a week ago."
CM: "What do you think about it?"
JN: "Oh it sucks. Really."
CM: "Do you want me to print that?"
JN: "I mean no... it's the best thing since whatever. I'm actually very happy with it. I wrote a couple of tunes. Everybody in the band wrote tunes, even Ara, who has never written a tune for the band. Bands always think the latest record is the best... I'm actually very happy."
After talking to Jay, I found Ben Parker, the tour manager for The Slackers, who gave me their new album to review. Thanks, Ben.
I have been listening to it all week, and it is up to par with their other albums. Listening to it reminds me of my high school days. I would go to the park across from Yuma High in front of Marcus Pool to play hacky-sack with my friends in the afternoon after we got out of class. Good times.
One of the songs on the album is about living in a tool shed down by the river. That is ironic, because back when I was a senior in varsity marching band I was voted most likely to end up living in a van down by the river.
Another song "Mr. Tragedy" reminds me of the Beatles' "Paperback Writer," but more demented. All in all the album is easy listening, and I recommend it to ska lovers and anyone else who likes good instrumental music.
See you next week under the midnight sun...