The Slackers - Crescent Ballroom - 3/27/14

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The Slackers Crescent Ballroom 3/27/14

After two long years, The Slackers returned to Phoenix with a vengeance last night to a crowd of super-starved local fans at the Crescent Ballroom eager to hear their ska sounds.

With an extensive catalog after more than 20 years of releasing records, the audience seemed pleased to hear everything from the heavily Brooklyn-influenced ska of their early years and the era of 1996's Better Late Than Never to newer material off of their latest EP, My Bed is a Boat.

The 2 Tone Lizard Kings went on before the headliner, and like every time I've seen them as of late, I was very impressed. Then again, with Cameron Tuttle on drums, it's hard not to be, not that I'm trying to sell the rest of this very talented and entertaining band short by any means. After all, I've caught their highly skilled horn section being invited onstage by the likes of ska pioneers The Skatalites. Similar to that night, said section went off on the kind of jazzy solos at the Crescent that get your blood pumping.

And also like at previous perfomances, they pulled local ska DJ Fullstop onstage to skank it up and sing along on one of their tunes. The selector and his counterpart, DJ Beat Betty, also spun wonderfully classic wonderful classic and vintage ska tunes as The Slackers set up.

The crowd grew surprisingly large, energetic and loud as the renowned NYC-based sextet were about to perform, as is to be expected for a band with as big a following as theirs. As is the norm for a ska show, once the music started, everyone was dancing like crazy and got into the groove.

Even Disco Dave Hillyard, their saxophone player, took the lead on a Slackers' version of "The Fool," a tune that originated with his side project The Rocksteady Seven, much to the surprise and delight of myself and many other ska freaks. As he's wont to do, Hillyard busted out killer jazz chops on his horn.

Alongside him was Glen Pine, who never fails to bring his explosive vocals and trombone stylings, and Marcus Geard, who dropped brutal bass lines to keep us people moving. Their drummer, Ara Babajian, threw down mad beats, reverberating throughout the Crescent's concert hall.

And "Agent" Jay Nugent, as would be expected from a veteran and master guitarist, kept the crowd skanking and went off on his amazing jazzy solos. Multi-talented keyboardist, harmonica player and vocalist Vic Ruggiero also wowed the crowd, as always, leading the band with his dreamy voice, ivory tickling, and harmonica shredding.

I was stoked to hear The Slackers play "Sarah" off of their first album and even newer material like "Old Dog." They also played Glen's first song with the band, "Mountainside," and a crowd favorite, "Wasted Days."

At one point, about ten women made their way to the stage to dance with them. They even took a request from local ska fan and friend of theirs, Katey Trowbridge of The Rebel Set, who asked them to play "Peculiar." It didn't take long before Katey and her friends made it onstage to tear it up with The Slackers.

Overall, their performance was definitely one for the books, especially for a 20-year-old band.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: The Slackers at Crescent Ballroom

Personal Bias: I used to collect all of The Slackers' albums when I first got into them. Good or alright, I've caught every show of theirs out here since high school.

The Crowd: As always for a ska show, there were rudies, punks, skins, hipsters, rockabilly fans, rockers, and mods.

Fast Fact: Drummer Ara Bajian used to play with Leftover Crack before playing with The Slackers.

Overheard: "There's going to be a drag show at Crescent tonight as well. This is going to be fun!"

One More Thing: If you dig The Slackers, definitely check out Vic Ruggiero's blues-y solo project if you haven't.

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

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