Gunday Monday, Explicit Bombers, St. Thomas Boys Academy and The Toasters @ Small’s 11/4/11 (Review

Listening to live Ska and Punk music is a sure way to amp up your night. Hamtramck’s Small’s was a good venue for such an evening.

Gunday Monday
Explicit Bombers
St. Thomas Boys Academy
The Toasters

Gunday Monday played with their usual amount of infectious energy despite the unusually subdued crowd. Lead singer, Alex Lee, noticed and playfully remarked, “Something’s wrong with this picture. I’m the one with a cast, and I’m moving more than you guys.” Recently he had been hit by a car, but that didn’t stop Alex from his never ending dancing and jumping about. Frankly, you shouldn’t be standing still at a Gunday Monday show. Their ska-core video game sounds make you want to move. One of the new songs they played “Between the Lines” had an intro with similar elements to The Special’s “Hey Little Rich Girl” except it was faster. The song stood on its own due to Matt Sever’s bass and David Cardelli’s rhythmic drumming. They also performed lesser played songs off of their album, “Armed and Dangerous” such as, “I Told You So,” and “Beer N Justice.” It was a nice change of pace for Gunday Monday.

Explicit Bombers is a punk band made up of seventeen year olds. I definitely give them credit for their obvious dedication and determination, but to me their songs were like hard-core power ballads with whiny, somewhat NOFX sounding, vocals. Every song played like a future anthem, except that they weren’t. They seemed to take themselves too seriously; with a bit of forced stage presence, and that attitude of having something to prove. Not all of their songs were like that though. The song, “Out of Business,” had more ska tones to it and was well received in the form of a mosh pit. Pent up energy will do that to you. A touching moment during their set was when lead singer and bassist Dan Harness dedicated “Fear” to his and drummer David’s dad who was celebrating his fifty seventh birthday that day. Their dad also wrote the lyrics. Overall, they have talent that needs to be further developed. It will be interesting to see how they come into their own when they are more comfortable with themselves as musicians.

St. Thomas Boys Academy played a tight set and drew the biggest crowd of the night. A good portion of their songs played were from their recently released album, “Homecoming Afterparty Edition.” “Let Me Go” spewed a kind of Celtic fast-paced rough energy with a Hub City Stompers sound to it. “South W” was an older song, and a personal favorite of mine. It’s a rather haunting song about a loss of innocence and a gain of experience via realizing that life is pretty messed up, and leaves you feeling helpless. The chorus goes, “Save, save yourself, everyday, save yourself”—perhaps the only way to get by. The rhythm was set to a guiding guitar with compelling trumpet and drums, making you feel this song in your bones. Trumpet player, Tuna, played resonating notes with skilled clarity throughout the night especially when he stepped into the crowd during “Poor Should Unify” and faced the band playing with a classic Wild West, vagabond style. There wasn’t much verbal interaction with the crowd; STBA did that naturally through their music, particularly with “Circle Pit.” Mr. H. only had to screech the title, and the crowd instantly started a pit. This band has presence and their live show is a MUST SEE.

The last time I saw The Toasters play was in 2009 on the Ska is Dead 4 Tour at Detroit’s Magic Stick. This band has vastly improved since then. The Toasters were one of the first bands on the NYC third wave ska scene and have been around since the 80s. They helped pave the way for future Ska bands with their traditional Ska riffs, hopping beats, distinct, wailing vocals, and their sweet brass sounds. Vocalist and guitarist Robert “Bucket” Hingley seemed to be in a good mood and interacted with the crowd plenty. Like Lee, he also noted the hesitation of participation, “What’s this big empty space? Did someone take a piss or something?” The space quickly disappeared and for the entire set, the crowd never stopped moving. They played classics like, “2-Tone Army,” “Weekend in L.A.,” and “Decision at Midnight.” Hingley dedicated “Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down” to “…protesters all over the world Occupying Wall Street. [And] even if you don’t agree with protesters they’re just exercising their free rights.” Their encore included “Matt Davis”—a brilliant Ska take on James Bond music and beyond, which started a skankin’ frenzy with effortless horns and pulsating drums. The Toasters play music that people can relate to. It isn’t complicated; you just feel it and go.