Live: The Slackers & Ballyhoo! (2-21-12)

Live: The Slackers & Ballyhoo! (2-21-12)

Date: Tuesday, February 21st 2012
Line up: The Slackers, Ballyhoo! & Two Tone Lizard Kings
Location: Crescent Ballroom. Phoenix, AZ

Upon walking up to Downtown Phoenix’s Crescent Ballroom on an ordinary Tuesday night, there was already a buzz in the air that only continued to billow as the night went on. With local support opening the night along with two highly acclaimed national touring acts in Aberdeen, Maryland’s Ballyhoo! and twenty-year veterans of the ska-punk-rock circuit The Slackers, hailing from Brooklyn, New York, the outdoor tavern and eatery was already overflowing before the music began.

Entering through two double doors, the ballroom was nearing capacity with fans lining five rows of bleachers on the back wall. Once Howi Spangler (lead singer and guitarist) took the microphone as Ballyhoo! jumped onstage, no one remained seated the rest of the night. Not even a couple barricades separating the twenty-one and over crowd from the kiddies could stop the movement on the dance floor, or the comedy from the stage for that matter. After all, the music was the reason everyone came out to the concert hall on easy-going Tuesday night.

The music was easy listening from the start with Ballyhoo! despite the name of their opener “Evil Penguin”. It was the first time since Labor Day weekend that Law Records’ own Ballyhoo! came to the “valley of the sun” and the energy inside the 550 capacity ballroom was in full swing. Although, it was not a full set from the Maryland quartet, their set happened to feature a wide variety of old songs from the Do It For The Money days, while also featuring their latest and greatest from their album Daydreams.

After properly re-introducing their style to Arizona with their opener, “Last Night” was the next song up. The upbeat, falling in love rendezvous lyricism will soon be accompanied by a music video to be shot in the coming days in Southern California. There are a few good things about touring for bands, not only do you have the ideal opportunity to play music from town to town, spreading your music one fan at a time, but on strategically planned off days on the road with no shows, a beach shoot in California for your latest radio single is always a plus!

However, Ballyhoo! was far from hitting the 10 freeway for the “golden state”, continuing the loving spectacle of music their next song was “Diamonds”, slowing down the dance floor until a few wicked guitar solos during an interlude. With three songs from Daydreams featured from the start, it was the first time a track from their album Cheers! was featured as the music didn’t stop, syncing guitar riffs and gentle keys together gliding into “Somewhere Tropical”. The track title says it all, really. Music moves people, physically and emotionally. Listening to the song can only put a pleasant smirk on one’s face thinking about an island paradise as Howi rips away on the guitar and Big D (drums) sits behind his kit working the drum fills and the ride cymbal like a master craftsman.

Ballyhoo! has made touring the number one priority as they have gone from coast to coast and border to border, and their craft has only flourished with seasoning. The live performance is crisp and exhilarating from the audience’s perspective. On stage, Ballyhoo! jams like they are playing the biggest show to date, every single night. Yet, they still manage to give fans the experience of being inside a garage or a basement, just having fun with their instruments and a few close friends. That feeling was never more prevalent than when one unrelenting fan kept screaming for an oldie but goodie titled “Farley”. Although, the fan shouting out was not me, I was certainly giddy since this was the first song that fed my appetite for more Ballyhoo! some ten years ago.

At this point, my night in particular was fulfilled, even with Ballyhoo! ongoing and New York legends on deck. However, Ballyhoo! played on with “Cali Girl”, opting to not substitute in “Arizona Girl”, perhaps contrary to some locals’ beliefs, but it was the correct decision on the band’s behalf! With humor in the air and a final song to close out their set, Ballyhoo! performed an open ended invitation with “Cerveza”, as Howi joked, “This is our last song tonight… I know we’re done. So, come talk to us, buy us a drink and let’s rock out to The Slackers together!” With everyone jumping by the end of the song, the cheers of appreciation meshed with jubilation when The Slackers emerged on stage minutes later to kick off their set.

To describe The Slackers to someone who has never witnessed their performance in person is an interesting feat. Los Angeles has Fishbone. Boston has the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. New York is equipped with The Slackers. Each group has their devoted following, and their styles vary in influences and overall sound coming out of the speakers. The Slackers bring a blues and jazz influence with their ska-reggae-rock steady blend of music. Each of these bands features a saxophone, trombone, keyboards, and the standard bass, drums and guitars. The Slackers lead singer Glen Pine also plays the trombone, while Angelo Moore of Fishbone has become one of the legendary live saxophone players of our generation. However, it is like comparing apples to oranges, The Slackers are staple in their own right.

One thing that separates every band and performing acts is their attitude. The Slackers are no different, carrying their onstage personas with chuckling humor, covered up by dark suits, matching ties and one impressive mustache. In fact, Vic Ruggiero (vocals and keyboards) stated, “Marcus Geard (bass) has the best mustache this side of the Rocky Mountains”, which left many in attendance questioning the validity while still bursting into laughter. All the while, throughout the stand-up comedy routine, The Slackers played their dub ballads, never missing a beat, intertwining classic hits like “Knowing”, “Yes It’s True”, “Peculiar” and “So This Is The Night”. Somehow, the band even managed to break into a Misfits cover of “Attitude”, which instantly captivated the attendees from that point on.

There were no rambunctious circle pits or overzealous moshing, accompanied by stage dives, but with Ballyhoo! and The Slackers Arizona received a double dose of quality music in the style of reggae-rock-ska-punk. Does it really get any better?

Article By: Kris Siuta
Photos By: IrieAZPhoto