6 October 2009 (Aggie Theater, Ft. Collins CO)
Hipsters, skankers, and punks, oh my! It was an interesting crowd at the Aggie: pork pie hats and mohawks. Everybody settled in for a fun night of dancing to a couple of good bands. I would have held out for the English Beat on the 7th, but I scored free tickets for this show and it turned out to be a good one (although the English Beat still rock the house).
Nuckle. They seem to be the Aggie's go-to local band for ska and reggae: they were also scheduled to open for the English Beat and opened for Mystic Roots Band last month. It's a full line up: sax, trombone, trumpet, drums, bass, two guitars and a harmony singer.
There's a lot to enjoy here. The horns are tight, the bass shakes the room, the drums are solid but fairly versatile, and the harmony vocals are sweet as freedom. David Ochoa is a strong frontman on guitar and vocals. He's got a good range, able to cover some rap/toasting in addition to his more typical R&B style sound. Still, I wish that their female singer could have sung more lead. Her voice is strong and soulful and it would have mixed things up a bit. Also, the two guitars tended to play the same chank for much of the time, so having one throw in a little fill or alt-chank would have been nice. Of course, they could bring in some keys and really change things.
All of that is just a distraction from what they really did well, which is R&B flavored ska, with a side of funk. Ochoa could pull in that modern, boy band soul vocal and work the crowd. Their showpiece song was called (I think) Sinsemilla. This started out with a skankin' groove, shifted into a little bit of toasting and a rub-a-dub reggae beat, then shifted smoothly through several tight rhythm changes with numerous solos. This was serious fun and showcased the band's skills.
The Ten Timers are working on an EP. I'm looking forward to checking that out and seeing them again.
The Aggrolites call their music "dirty reggae". It's more ska funk and soul than reggae to me, but why quibble when it's such a hot show. Their stage presence was monster. Bass player Jeff Roffredo and guitarist Brian Dixon stalked the stage, always getting back to the mikes for their vocals. The effect was a lot like some of the old punk bands or Sha Na Na at Woodstock. Meanwhile, frontman Jesse Wagner ran around, goading the crowd up and pushing us all to a frenzy. The attitude may have been defiant punk and thrash, but the music was tight and well orchestrated.
They nailed their harmonies like those old soul records from the mid '60s. The jams ranged from the James Brown style Funky Fire to the ska punk Dirty Reggae to more classic '70s ska sounds, reminiscent of the Specials. All the while, the keys wrapped around and over the beat and the drums were relentless. Wagner worked the crowd like it was his main instrument. On songs like Pop The Trunk, he taught the crowd their part and pushed the mike on the stage hangers up front to pump their voices into the chant.
When they wrapped up the set, we rested for a second, then started the call for the encore. They came out and played two more songs. The first was sort of a Soul Man meets Mustang Sally crowd song, called A-G-G-R-O. This was followed up with an incredible ska sing along version of Don't Let Me Down by the Beatles. I was singing that one all the way home.
It was a relatively short show, but they burned enough energy for twice as long. No one felt cheated. This is a high energy band - since you can't get the original recipe Coca Cola, you'll have to settle for triple espresso black Russians.
More photos at my Flickr.