The Slackers – Brighton Centre

By paul

The Slackers
Friday 15 May 2009
The Engine Room, Brighton
Support: The Meow Meows

?You think our New York shows are these big cool things but they?re mostly like this,? informs Vic Ruggiero. ?Except sometimes there?re meat-hooks. You?re never quite sure how a show?s going to go when there?re meat-hooks about.? If there?s one thing you can be sure of at a Slackers show it?s that you?re not going to be force-fed generic onstage remarks. No ?this is our favourite place to play? and no ?you guys are better than [insert town name] last night?. Everything is honest, unique and far from the ?robotic? banter that so many others bring over the Atlantic. You might even say it?s a little peculiar.

Bad puns aside, this evening is an odd one. For starters, a nasty storm is whipping across Brighton, huge gusts making it somewhat challenging to even get to the seafront Engine Room (well, if you?re walking anyway). Ska music is perfect for the summer rays, but they?ve decided to take a leave of absence. Secondly, The Great Escape festival is sprawled across the city this weekend making this little number seem slightly out of place amongst the indie droves. Finally, opener The Meow Meows has been allotted a near 45 minute support slot, a rare treat for a support act.

Fortunately, the hometown nonet has enough to ensure time flies by. Packed onto the small stage (and I mean packed) the band plays a gentle blend of reggae/ska highlighted by dual vocals, that have as much soul in them as ska, and a three-piece brass section. It?s been five months since the band?s last performance and tonight marks the first show for a new drummer, so things could have easily gone horrible. Not the case. The Brighton faithful dance and sing along to a band that?s really found its identity and is well worth checking out. (3.5/5)

It?s hard to argue against The Slackers being the best band in its field (by a country mile). It?s refreshing then to see the band set up instruments, test microphones and generally do its own dirty work. The NYC sextet is humble to say the least, a trait that comes across throughout the set. ?We always seem to play these basements,? states Ruggiero. ?They put us underground in these musty, dank rooms. We love it.? Tonight?s musty, dank room is crammed. It?d take a shoehorn to get anybody else in. It?s hot, sweaty and rife with exultant punters. The absolute opposite to the inclement weather outside, you might say.

It?s got to be hotter on stage. The band dons its traditional shirts and suits (bassist Marcus Geard in a gleaming whiter than Daz white number) and sweats through what ends up being a set of somewhere between 90 minutes and two hours. Now that?s a long set, but the band has no trouble filling the time with a near 20 year back catalogue. In fact it feels as though the surface has barely been scratched. Last year?s long-player ?Self Medication? is the basis of this tour but even that?s not borrowed from too heavily.

Amongst the songs picked out tonight, ?Ever Day is Sunday?, ?What Went Wrong? and ?Married Girl? are included whilst the likes of ?Watch This?, ?Don?t You Want a Man? and ?Propaganda? (?I need to rewrite that,? quips Ruggiero. ?We like our president now.?) are missing. It?s inevitable with this sort of catalogue some songs aren?t going to make the cut. But there?s no disappointment from the crowd. This is a night of glee. From Ruggiero?s oh-so-cool vocals and Glen Pine?s more intense, rabble-rousing singing, not to mention aggressive trombone, to Dave Hillyard?s amazingly accomplished saxophone, everything seems spot-on. Touches of soulful jazz sit amongst the ska whilst a carnival atmosphere lurks menacingly below the surface. It?s cool. It?s so well delivered. And it?s danceable. Highly danceable!

It?s all closed out by a cat-and-mouse, will they/won?t they game that finally results in ?Sarah?. The band has taunted the crowd all night that they?ll be no such performance but finally abides the calls. A sing-along ensues that defines everything that has come before: the band has smiles whilst the crowd is ecstatic. It?s the sort of response The Slackers has received for years: devoted and heartfelt. And don?t even get to thinking this is going to change anytime soon. (4.5/5)