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Streetlight Manifesto Concert [Feedback]
Apr 28th, 2009 by Dan

Last Friday I went out to Towson to see one of my favorite bands, Streetlight Manifesto. The last (and only) ska show I’d ever been to was back in 2003 for Five Iron Frenzy’s farewell tour, which primarily means that I didn’t really go to a ska show. You see, FIF skewed mostly to a Christian audience and so at their shows they mostly discouraged the shoving and pushing endemic of most ska concerts. Naturally, SLM had no such qualms about the shoving, so I got firsthand knowledge of just how hard it is to jump/dance, sing, try and stay on two feet in all the shoving, and, most importantly, breathe. Other than all the unnecessary shoving (I get why, it’s all the energy, but it just seems kind of pointless…maybe I’m just old?), the venue was my kind of place. The last show I went to was at the DAR Constitution Hall (that’s Daughters of the American Revolution for the uninformed), which was a huge venue that meant that we had assigned seats that we were mostly confined to. Now, I was mostly turned off by Ben Folds’ all-new stuff set that night, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t want to be out in a crowd for it too. The Recher Theatre, on the other hand, was a tiny venue, with capacity for maybe 1000 people, if you stretched the limits of the place and maybe ignored a fire code or two. Perfect for a rock show, although I do also like the setup they had at school for Slope Day for the same kind of show.

The openers that night were the Skakabobs, an old ska group on a reunion tour. They must be really small time, cause Wikipedia doesn’t even know who they are, which would almost lead me to believe they didn’t exist if I hadn’t seen them with my own two eyes and heard fans of theirs singing their songs last night. Most of the band showed up for the reunion, but either the trombonist or the lead singer didn’t show up, because the lead singer that night also doubled as the trombonist when he was free of the mic. Their set was typical of ska bands and ska music, high energy, irrelevant, and catchy. Of note were two songs, one about Chinese food and the other about Emilio Estevez and how he was the band leader’s girlfriend (I believe this one was called “Emilio”). The latter featured chants of “Estevez!” after “Emilio!”s rang out, followed by awesome “Charlie!” “Sheen!”s. A good show and I was impressed…until I heard SLM come onto the stage.

It’s not the Skakabobs’ fault that they just can’t match up to Streetlight Manifesto, they just have a much richer sound that has yet to be upstaged by any ska performer I’ve heard since. The main strength, in my humble opinion, of SLM has to do with the composition of their horn section. Not content with just one saxophonist, Streetlight features both an alto (Jim Conti) and a baritone (Mike Brown) sax along with the usual trombone (Mike Soprano), trumpet (Matt Stewart), guitar (Tomas Kalnoky), bass (Peter McCullough), and drums. Each member of the band is a fully capable performer in his own right, which is frequently highlighted in their music with horn duets and solos, providing kind of a jazzy feel to their performance to break up all the ska punk flying around. They opened strong, they closed strong, and they had excellent pacing with a nice, slower section in the middle to ease us in to the raucous finale. I’ve yet to go to a better show.

On an interesting side note, lead singer Tomas Kalnoky mentioned that there would be a new SLM album of covers released on the net this summer and that, following Warped Tour, they would be working on their final album for Victory Records, creatively freeing them up to do whatever they wanted. I can’t wait.

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