The Scene: Moe’s BBQ South was packed last Saturday for a strong four band lineup of Punk, Ska, Ska/Punk, and Punk/Ska. The tightly-spaced, 16+ crowd moshed hard all night, though there was room at the back to stand or sit and listen peacefully. Largely though the back was the home-turf of parents keeping a watchful eye on their punk kids. Up front the energy was high early in the night and only got more intense. When all was said and done, The A-OKs put on a great release show for their second full-length, self-released disc, Funemployment Benefits.
The Opener: The Ruckus. The membership of The Ruckus largely moved here from Kansas in August of last year. All of them but vocalist/keyboard player Aliyah, and guitarist Nick seemed a little formal in their buttoned-up date night shirts, but the whole group played the hell out of a mostly original set. Authentic in their spirit and accomplishment of 3rd/4th wave Ska, The Ruckus are clearly a group of committed and dedicated musicians though they are slightly less intentional than The A-OKs in creating a hooligan-likefeeling in the audience.
The A-OKs: Front-man Mark Swan made good on his promise to make the crowd cheer by announcing “F&^% the Government!” as they began their show. The enthusiastic and deafening response of the crowd justified The A-OKs confident punk stylings. Seven members strong, the A-OKs sound more rebellious than they actually are. The joy and fun the crowd was having Saturday may have been a big bird for the establishment but it was also a bunch of (mostly) kids enjoying a zealously cheerful celebration of song and dance.
The A-OKs have a surefire recipe for eliciting that celebratory mood. They play fast and with more intense-every member turning their mind and body over to a group ska-telligence that then takes over the room. The horn players, including Mark (mentally nicknamed him Chops) Malpezzi on saxophone, forge their own path but maintain authenticity to time-honored ska approaches. They do a great job; occasionally quoting children’s song melodies to accentuate the non-verbal yet vocal aspects of their tone and providing a rhythmically tight chorus for front-man Swan. I have to give a special shout-out to trombonist Matt Sanchez. He not only rocked his mohawk and the slide all night, but I heard from a fan in the audience that he does something else admirable. Matt also teaches music to elementary students. Nicole Orts wears a couple of hats for the band as she leads the horn section with sass and verve on her trumpet and also books the groups shows.
Additionally, Justin Cantrell on guitar, Christian Jaramillo on bass, and Zach Barker on drums, bring right-and-tight rhythm section work to the stage. It’s like you got bed-skank* bugs in your shorts all of a sudden when you’re listening to the A-OKs, the tenacious little suckers that work fast and don’t respond to treatment. Check out their first album and keep an eye out for show announcements from them soon so you can get their new self-released disc Funemployment Benefits in person to make sure your dollars go directly to the musicians you enjoy.
Note: For the unitiated to Ska, in the context of this article the word “skank” refers to a dance. Skanking is simple: exuberantly lift caddy corner limbs skyward as you jog in a demented conga line from the future around the dance floor.
Stage Presence: A
Set/Light show: B-