Apple Stomp 2013: 5 Must-See Bands at NYC Ska Fest
It's been a good 15 years since the Bosstones were pop stars and MTV regularly showed videos featuring trombones, but that doesn't mean ska is dead.
It's certainly alive and well in New York City, where this weekend (May 31 and June 1) marks the inaugural Apple Stomp festival, a two-day celebration of all things brassy and offbeat. Among those taking the stage at Irving Plaza are headliners the Suicide Machines and the Slackers, bands at polar ends of the ska spectrum.
While the former nods to Rancid and the Clash, transforming what was originally '60s-era Jamaican music into a zippy, punky hybrid, the latter kicks it more traditional, using old-school island riddims as springboards into dub, reggae, soul and early rock 'n' roll.
We at Diffuser.fm are stoked to see both, but perusing the lineup -- a diverse roster that represents the genre in all its permutations -- we're even more excited about the following groups, our picks for the 5 Must-See Bands at Apple Stomp.
Ska and metal generally go together like ammonia and bleach, but when these newly reunited Boston dudes do it, it's surprisingly non-toxic. That's because of Thumper's smart lyrics, which often center on religion and politics, as well as their seamless transitions from thrash to skank. Both are in evidence on 'Holy Roller,' one of the finest ska bastardizations (and we mean that in a good way) of the '90s.
What's weirder than a metallic ska band? A Satanic one. Mephiskapheles may be guilty of working a ska pun into their band name -- a trend that's led many to dismiss the genre as fundamentally goofy -- but theirs is a seriously warped blend of trad ska, punk, jazz and what sometimes sounds like off-kilter, out-of-tune lounge music. Back in ska's late-'90s heyday, this NYC group scored a minor MTV hit with 'Doomsday,' an apocalyptic rager sure to get the crowd moving at Apple Stomp 2013.
For some reason, Connecticut has a knack for ska, and in the '90s, the Nutmeg State was responsible for way more than its share of successful bands. The biggest was Spring Heeled Jack, whose 1998 single 'Jolene' garnered a bit of MTV love. No longer a going concern, SHJ occasionally follow the titular advice of their best song, 'Let's Get Together,' and reassemble for tours and live shows. Catch 'em Saturday, when they throw down just before the Slackers close things out.
As true ska fans know and must often explain to alarmed friends and relatives, the skinhead movement initially had nothing to do with racism. It was a working-class U.K. phenomenon, and this boot-clad, staunchly anti-racist Jersey crew honors those roots, doing a boozy, every-bloke blend of ska, reggae, Oi! and even New Wave. They, too, are back in action after a long hiatus, and when they barrel through 'Sharky 17,' it'll knock Irving Plaza on its ass.
When they formed in 1997, the Pilfers were that rarest of entities: a ska supergroup. Bringing together Coolie Ranx, formerly of genre stalwarts the Toasters, and Vinnie Nobile, famous for the elephant-like trombone sound he perfected as a member of Boston's Bim Skala Bim, this NYC fivesome infused their punky ska with dancehall, dub, hip-hop and hard rock. The group has reconvened several times since splitting up in 2001, and while Nobile is no longer part of the lineup, expect Coolie to drop some science, or knowledge, or whatever it is DJs are said to lay on the masses when they get on the mic and start chatting. With luck, they'll play 'S---'s Up in the Air,' the standout track on their 1997 demo cassette.