Brooklyn Rocksteady Documentary: A Story About My Scene

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I moved to New York City in 2008. By early 2009, I had found my way into a few bands. One of those bands was the instrumental reggae band The Hard Times. By 2010, we were a part of a really great scene. How did that happen?

In 2011, my friend Sam started filming a documentary about the Brooklyn rocksteady scene. His kickstarter was funded, Agent Jay from The Slackers started to pull together a soundtrack, and Sam started interviewing. He got lots of big names involved. I was both surprised and honored when he asked me if he could interview me. Part of me thought it was just a nice gesture; I knew he’d get a ton of footage and not necessarily use it all. I was happy to just to be interviewed and didn’t expect to make the cut.

Sometime later the trailer came out. I was excited to get a taste of what it would look like.

Meanwhile, my band was asked to contribute a song to the soundtrack. I’ll spare you the details but we took about hundred takes of a particular song. I was confident one of them would get used. After all, I had seen Sam filming at so many of our gigs and I knew we were there right as the momentum started to build around this new scene.

Fast forward to 2012. In the spring I left The Hard Times and in the summer I left Brooklyn for Boston. I had sort of forgotten about the documentary and was doing my best to keep up with what the bands were doing and what was happening in the scene. The compilation CD was released–possibly an indicator that the movie was soon to follow–and I wanted to see what the final cut was. Come to find out, The Hard Times recorded a new song for the record after I left. My heart sunk. Of course they had every right to–it was my choice to leave the band–but I was still bummed. Somewhere inside I was scared I was going to get written out of the story. It was unwarranted but it was how I felt.

In January 2013, Sam asked anyone who was interviewed to fill out a release. It gave me some hope so I filled it out and sent it back on the off-chance he decided to use footage of me. The last weekend of May 2013, there was a two-day ska festival in New York City. I decided to make the trek in from Boston. Prior to each night of the show, they were going to be showing scenes from the documentary; it was more or less done. I didn’t make it either night in time to see it myself. While catching up with another show-goer, he casually mentioned that he saw my face on the screen when they were previewing the documentary. It took so much effort to act casual when I heard that news.

Prior to the release, a longer five-minute teaser was released. You can catch me at about 1:45.

If your a fan of music documentaries… if you’re a fan of ska music in the USA… if you’re a fan of underground/DIY scenes… if you just want a better sense of why I care so damn much about this music… watch this movie. It comes in at just under an hour.

It was really special to be a part of this scene. It was even more special to give my two cents on film. There were screenings in Manhattan and Brooklyn earlier this month and the full thing was made available on YouTube and Vimeo on July 23rd. The film’s creator, Samuel Gursky, says a bit about the release here and here. The digital download, DVD, Tshirt, and soundtrack can be purchased in various bundles here.

Further reading and listening

At about 2:05 in the preview above, Agent Jay references the first “Dirty Reggae Party” and a show at Bowery Poetry Club. I was the promoter of that show at Bowery Poetry and at the time, was very distressed that this “after-party” was going to ruin the draw. I had no idea it was going to become the main event!

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