Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Skanksgiving from the PieTasters! (and friends)

How better to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season but with a multi-band jamathon at the 9:30 Club, singing and dancing your way to a well-deserved vacation day?

On Wednesday Nov. 21st, an r &b/soul/ska fest filled the stage (and we mean filled!) as Lionize, Westbound Train, the Slackers, and DC's own PieTasters and about a thousand of their closest personal friends filled the floor and danced, danced, danced the night away in a joyous romp full of good vibes and good songs. The bands are all old friends, having shared members in some cases and toured together, and you soon had a distinct (and unique) feeling of camaraderie that you were at an Animal House-era frat party. There were no strangers here, only friends you hadn't met yet. Togas would not have been out of place. Even the amps and drums were shared by all, left up to speed the transition between sets, a rare demonstration of trust and testimony to the cohesiveness and rapport among this crowd.

Lionize was first, playing a loose blend of ska and reggae that would become a recurring theme and familiar sound as the night went on. I picked up their cd EP, Mummies Wrapped in Money, a bargain at $5) and thoroughly enjoyed it, particularly "Surrender," "Killers," and my personal favorite, "Brains!...Brains!!!..." (asking the musical question, "Do you want to be a zombie like me?") They were followed in short order by Bostonians West Bound Train, who added a horn section, with singer Obi Fernandez doubling on trombone.

Somewhat more upbeat and playing with a style that relied more on ska and R & B than reggae, Westbound Train also turned in a solid set, keeping the audience on their feet and skankin'! They were followed by the very capable Slackers, who did their part to maintain the groove. The heady atmosphere and ska fest was capped by Indication Records recording artists, the PieTasters, who played a set featuring music from throughout their 17 year history, pumped up with frenetic energy, stellar interplay, and first class musicianship.

If you've been watching lately, you already know that Steve Jackson, Toby Hansen, Carlos Linares and Jeremy Roberts (comprising approx. 45% of the Pietasters) were our guests last month, filling us in on their latest adventures, an imminent European tour, and promoting the new cd, All Day (visit to find out where to pick this up) their 8th recording and a real throwback to the late 50's and early 60's, evoking memories of transistor radios playing a blend of old school Memphis and Motown soul, R & B, and beach music, with some island- influenced two- tone, ska, and reggae thrown in for good measure. Some standouts from the new record included the catchy "Don't Wanna Know," ""Change My Ways," and "Fozzy (Part I)" (reminding me of classic Otis Redding), along with an upbeat, energetic cover of the Stones' "Let's Spend The Night Together," that absolutely brought the house down.

While all the bands were fun, and could likely have headlined this or other venues themselves, it was the tight sound of the PieTasters that brought out the crowd, as several hundred people twisted, bounced, danced, spun, and skanked along in unison, shouting out the lyrics as Steve Jackson obligingly pointed his microphone into the audience. This eventually culminated in members of the crowd stage diving, a trio of young ladies who danced onstage with the band for several songs, and finally an amicable mosh pit actually moving onto the stage as twenty or thirty fans bopped along, with the band's brave acquiescence (and even encouragement!) on a couple of tunes. Again, this only added to the friendly, collegial atmosphere, perhaps the ultimate demonstration of the group's popularity and sense of identity with their fans.

That's something ya don't see every day. And the kind of stuff that brings me back every time. Skip the big arenas, and check out some bands that are genuinely glad to see you there! And they'll do their damndest to ensure you have the time of your life!

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