The Slackers, Deal’s Gone Bad and Matt Wixson’s Flying Circus @ The Blind Pig 10/20/11 (Review)

It was another Ska-charged night at The Blind Pig this past Thursday. The Slackers always draw a crowd when headlining—especially with the line up they had that night.

Matt Wixson’s Flying Circus
Deal’s Gone Bad
The Slackers

Matt Wixson’s Flying Circus played a tight, ten song set which included their recently released EP, “Jeffy” (download it for free from Community Records or Open Hand Records). Their music evokes a kind of no apologies-in your face-we will take whatever life throws at us head on feeling and is loud. They play catchy melodies, punk-like folky riffs with lyrics that easily get stuck in your head through songs like “Drinking Hymn of the Republic” and Wixson’s classic, “Double Agent.” My favorite song played was “The Architect.” It’s about living in a flawed world and taking responsibility for the choices that only you can make. To me, it sounds like a rolling Western ballad featuring Wixson’s sharp voice, Josh Young’s steady bass and Mike Land’s driving drums. The members compliment each other well, musically and personally. Overall MWFC was a choice band to open for such an anticipated show.

Seeing Deal’s Gone Bad play live is like going to church, The Church of Reggae, and they are open for music. It’s like listening to a mix of some good, traditional Reggae with a bit of a Soul and a dash of Ska. People can’t help but connect to such emotionally stirring music. They played a solid set which included songs “Things Are Gonna Get Better” and crowd favorites, “Messin’ Around” and “Movin’ On.” Songs that feature smooth horns, spirited keys, and a rhythmic bass with soulful vocals. They’re in the process of working on a new record and played “California and 26” off of it. It received a good reaction with its danceable beats and melodic drumming. Oddly, there wasn’t a lot of dancing except for a small group of people in the front and it was only after their lead singer Todd Hembrook said, “I don’t see many people wiggling their butts much” that people really let themselves go.

The Slackers aren’t your typical Ska band. They have other elements to them like Reggae, Soul, and Jazz, as well as some Rhythm and Blues. They’re rather unforgettable and put on a hell of a show. The first time I saw them play live was on their 2004 tour for “Close My Eyes” in Albany, NY. I was blown away. And despite the small sized crowd then, they really jammed out. If anything their energy for this show was more vivacious. Dave Hillyard was hypnotic and compelling on the saxophone, playing intense, heartfelt solos during songs like, “Old Dog” a Ska waltz for sure and “Bin Waitin” a song about wanting a new state of mind. After this song in particular, Vic Ruggerio (their keyboardist with a noticeably throaty Bronx singing voice) mused, “Dave plays beautiful, doesn’t he?” The crowd couldn’t have agreed more. The Slackers make you dance without thinking to a resonating trombonist and playful vocalist, infectious drumming, a fast-paced guitar, and a skillfully played bass that is used like it’s an upright. They ended their set with a five song encore which included “The Same Everyday,” “The TV Dinner,” and “The Happy Song.” They finished the night with “Have the Time” a song with effective, upbeat music that had people automatically singing to the lyrics, “I can say that I don’t know what I’m doing but I can say I have the time.” The Slackers know how to play a show. They are the Pied Pipers of Ska.