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Punk Rock Dating Advice: Is She the One?

Sometimes you just need dating advice. Sometimes you just wish your friends would give you a straightforward answer. Nuance? Feh!

Thankfully, two of my favorite punk bands are here with answers.

The Ramones will tell you “She’s the One.”

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Marketing WIN: OoOTie Teaches Me to Tie a Bowtie and I Immediately Buy One

OoOTie Boston Purple Husky Bow Tie

Why yes that is a husky. Who ever said I didn’t have school spirit?

It’s a real treat to live walking distance of the SoWa Open Market in Boston’s South End. If you’ve never been, it’s one part farmer’s market, one part crafts fair, one part flea market, and one part food truck meetup. This past Sunday was the first one of the season and we were excited to shop. While perusing the crafts fair, a couple guys in one booth invited us to learn how to tie a bow tie, something I’ve never done before in my life. Like any great teacher, they demonstrated, they let me try it myself, and they did it without being condescending. Turns out, it’s not much harder than tying a necktie. (more…)

Yours Truly Joins Sammy Kay and Fast Four at The Midway Cafe

Last Saturday night I had the pleasure of seeing my pal Sammy Kay at The Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain as he traveled through with his East Coast band The Fast Four (aka The Snails). I was pleasantly surprised when they invited me up to jam with them on their last tune, “Sweet Misery.” Check the clip below. You can read my full preview of the show at Boston Ska (dot) net.

Huge tip of the hat to Kevin for taping the set!

How I Kept Christmas Lights from Getting Tangled

Back story: My girlfriend and I inherited my father’s old fake Christmas tree. (Yes I’m Jewish, no she’s not, yes we have a tree in the house, no this is not that post. Focus.) He got this thing when I was in middle school, but it still stands up. At some point he decided it would be a great idea to wrap a string of colored lights around the spine (I hesitate to call it a trunk…) so it lit from the inside once it was decorated. It didn’t look that bad. We happen to have less decorations and tinsel to wrap around the tree so it just sort of looked sad with the lights on the inside. So the tree was already assembled and I wanted to remove that string of lights so we could use it on the outside.

Lifehacker schmifehacker!

Lifehacker schmifehacker! Also I recycle.

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Spring Heeled Jack USA in the New Haven Advocate

But it’s 2010, not 1998. Seeing the late 90s ska/rock act Spring Heeled Jack USA on the cover of the New Haven Advocate in high school was not such a big deal; they were from the area and were big. Seeing the video for “Jolene” on MTV2 was a very big deal; were they really that big?

SHJUSA broke up roughly 10 years ago but will be having two reunion shows this weekend at Toad’s Place in New Haven. Against my better judgement, I have tickets to both nights. The Advocate ran a really great article about the band and the shows this weekend. I got warm-fuzzies reading the article when it hits on a few things in particular. The writer and guitarist/singer Mike Pellegrino talk about the Tune Inn at length:

“That place was so sketchy, so cool,” says Pellegrino. “How many shows did we play there? 100? That’s not pushing it right? It was totally sketchy. I miss it. There was a burnt-up building across the street and parents would be like, ‘Where am I dropping my kid off?’”

The Tune Inn, formerly on Center Street in New Haven, was an all-ages club. It didn’t serve alcohol until near the end of its existence. It was a place for teens to go that wasn’t contrived (or chaperoned), to play, mingle and listen to music.

My mom definitely was concerned where she was dropping me off. The very first show I ever drove myself to was there. Pilfers stole my hearing permanently at the Tune Inn. My first high school pop/punk band played some of our first shows there. When high school senioritis kicked  in, I was there at least once a week, it almost didn’t matter who was playing. I remember being extremely frustrated when they were muscled out of New Haven and made it out for the venues last show when Thumper (also mentioned in the article) reunited. I remember just how weird the place felt with half the sound equipment and furniture gone that last night.

The article goes on to talk about how SHJUSA fit into the third wave ska explosion, the subsequent fall, and several reunions. It’s a really nice intro for those aren’t familiar with the band or the context but a nice recap for anyone who was along for any of the ride.

I had all but forgotten that in 2006 I wrote an article on SHJUSA for the short lived Upbeat Ska Zine (picture below) run by some friends of mine during what I felt was a really great ska renaissance taking place in CT at that time.

As I mention in the article, I only saw them once in high school, somewhere between my sophomore and junior years. This was really the start. Tracks from “Songs From Suburbia” became staples of almost every party I went to. Were you ever at Tap Out House at midnight when I cranked “Mass Appeal Madness?” While I was filling in on bass for CT ska band Stealing From Peter, who was known for covering various SHJUSA songs live, we had one show where Mike Pellegrino (singer/guitarist mentioned above) jumped on stage to sing “Jolene” with us. It was pretty surreal. Here’s that video:

Most recently, for a birthday present, one of my good friends got me a signed poster from a benefit auction (a beautiful story in and of itself) that now sits above my bed. I’m pretty proud of it. I still consider them a major influence on my current pop/punk/ska project, Hey Stranger.

Spring Heeled Jack USA on MySpace, Facebook, Wikipedia and Vinyl via Asbestos Records.

We’ve been gone for so long that it doesn’t really matter where we’re going to, there’s no looking back.
I know I should be strong, but my heart isn’t in it and I don’t know my limit, so all I can do is move on.

*** Update 5/11/09 ***

These shows were both amazing! The music was great, the openers were fun, the band had not lost an ounce of the energy they once had and I ran into everyone. I ran into old friends, members of every band I’d ever been in, an old roommate, heroes of mine in the audience, and the list goes on.

In addition to the New Haven Advocate, the New Haven Register ran a great article that was more the human interest angle, reflecting on the loss of a band member and how that affected the band’s decisions. Hat tip to Duff Guide To Ska for linking it and running a really great preview for the shows as well.

206

…is the amount of gigs I estimate I’ve played in my life. I’ve played 56 gigs since I moved to NYC in August 2008, which begins to make up for the 2 gigs I played between June 2006 and then. The bulk is roughly as follows (I didn’t really start keeping track until the Tap Out years).

Hey Stranger – 14
The Hard Times – 20
Across The Aisle – 17
Push To Release – about 25
Tap Out – About 104
Lost In The Shuffle – About 7
Stealing From Peter – About 8

And there are a bunch of one-offs in here (such as backing Hannah Fairchild, filling in for The Roland High Life, a TMBG cover band, The Silent  H) and the Hardcore Karaoke Pile-On Extravaganza shows that would be weird to count.

I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to have played all these shows, especially having never gone on a proper tour (save for an 11 date run with Tap Out in 2005). I’m psyched because I feel like there’s so many more to come.

(originally posted on my Tumblr page)

[The Upbeat Ska Zine] Johnny Too Bad and the Strikeouts: 100% Pure CT Mod Ska

Originally printed in the June 2006 issues of The Upbeat Ska Zine.

Johnny Too Bad and the Strikeouts: 100% Pure CT Mod Ska
By Jacob Wake-Up!

They released a full length album on Moon Records, shared the stage with the Skatalites, opened for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, toured as far as New Orleans, and headlined shows in Boston. Not a bad resume for a three-year run. Johnny Too Bad and the Strikeouts did more in three years than many Connecticut bands ever have or will ever get the chance to do. They may not be the most obvious CT name drop, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t leave a lasting mark in the CT ska scene. We had a chance to talk to Rodger Phillips, the lead singer of JTB, about what they meant to the scene and what the scene meant to them.

Forming in 1995, JTB was started by Scott Neilson on trumpet, keys, and farfisa, Jay Adelburg on drums, and Rodger when they had left another band. Scott Neilson would prove to be a mainstay. Nick Kain, influenced strongly by bands such as the Pogues, joined originally as a temporary guitarist coming direct from guitar and vocal duties for The Spicy Gribblets, but ended staying long term and became the most important part of their musical direction. His credits include “Cider Song,” the ska punk sing-a-long to end all sing-a-longs from their 1997 release Patchwork Girl. This album was only preceded by two demo tapes and an independently released 7” vinyl. Recorded locally in Cheshire, CT, Patchwork Girl was released on Ska Satellite Records (Edna’s Goldfish and the Strangeways also had releases on the label), owned by Moon Ska Records, showing the serious attention JTB had received.

Nick Kain left and was later replaced by Anthony Rossomando, a Hamden native, as the band headed in a more rock and power-pop direction (the Hippos anyone?). Jay Adelburg left while they were on tour in Louisiana after a fistfight with Scott, and was soon replaced by Mike Gill. This would prove to be a turning point, as Jay was important to the dynamic within the band, holding people together. Other members include Matt Jones on bari sax and guitar, Rob Nolan on bass, and Dan Delacruz on tenor sax.

JTB was a product of their environment, playing music that was a mixed result of what was in their tape decks. As self-proclaimed “ska geeks,” the result was inevitable. Locally, they were influenced by JC Superska, the Spicy Gribblets, Nigel Six, and of course, Spring Heeled Jack. On the national level, they looked to Mephiskapheles, the Pietasters, and the Bluebeats. As fans of traditional ska and skinhead reggae in the beginning of their career, they had the personal pleasure of opening for the Skatalites and Desmond Dekker. Their popularity grew as they shared the stage with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Big D and the Kids Table, the Planet Smashers, Skavoovie and the Epitones, Pilfers, The Slackers, and the Scofflaws.

The band moved to Boston, but by 1998, they found themselves in debt, their van was towed from unpaid parking tickets, and enthusiasm had waned. JTB played a show in Boston that would prove to be their last, and they simply disappeared. Kain is now in the Tampoffs, Delacruz plays in reggae/funk band John’s Brown Body, and Mike Gill is playing in the Murder Mile with Ron Ragona, former member of SHJ and current vocalist for Lost City Angels. Adelburg has played with the Queers, Forklift, and is currently and executive at Hot Topic. Rossomando played in the Libertines for Pete Doherty, is now playing in the Dirty Pretty Things, and according to Rodger, living the rock star lifestyle. Scott Nielson started the Johnny Too Bad Roots band after the break up, which has since turned in the Soul Merchants, who serves up some of the finer reggae/soul/ska in the state.

Rodger told us about his thoughts on the 90s ska scene, which he feels cannot be duplicated, but admits there were lots of petty moments, and that audiences and people change and grow. He sees the current scene as fantastic, with some pretty good bands to keep us going. Rodger has been lucky even to be contacted by people telling him how much JTB meant to them. Their posthumous MySpace site (http://www.myspace.com/andthestrikeouts) is filled with comments from past fans, revealing just how JTB reached individuals. Many were thrilled and then disappointed as the possibility of a reunion was teased. Rodger commented that this spring was the first time a reunion was proposed, but it didn’t work out due to member availability. Fans will lament to hear that a reunion probably won’t happen. For those who have not had the pleasure of seeing Johnny Too Bad and the Strikeouts live, their LP is available on Interpunk, songs from their demo tapes are posted on Purevolume, and there is a mix of live and studio recordings on their MySpace. Check them out and immerse yourself in a wealth of influential CT ska past.

This articles was written based on an interview conducted by CT Ska Garty.