The Slackers, a New York City based ska/reggae/rocksteady band, have been making music for over twenty years. While many fans may not even be twenty-years-old yet themselves, most have the dedication of someone who’s been around since the group played in moldy basements and parent’s garages.
See, the Slackers have had almost zero help from mainstream media in promoting their product, a unique blend of reggae rhythms with New York accents. Perhaps that’s because reggae has a strict, niche audience that doesn’t appeal to most, or maybe radio stations are nervous to play tracks that wander outside of their listeners comfort zones.
Perhaps this is part of the reason why fans of the Slackers are so dedicated. Many feel that the band deserves more recognition — twenty years worth of strong talent should be more widely noticed, they say — or perhaps it’s something more.
The Slackers’ Make Me Smile
Ask any number of fans of the reggae/rocksteady outfit, and you’ll find that most not only consider themselves avid listeners, but admit to owning the group’s entire discography — rarities, b-sides, and alt-takes included.
Ask any of them the number one reason they consider the Slackers their favorite band, though, and almost all agree: the live shows.
The Slackers are notorious for putting on one hell of a show, and have gained so much popularity by touring that they now find large audiences in Japan, Australia, Europe, and South America. The band tours the majority of every year, and admits that the majority of their income comes from putting on concerts. Over twenty years later, the Slackers can attest that their only true home is the road.
And so it came to the band as a big surprise when they had realized that the group had never performed at The Mission Tobacco Lounge before, located in Riverside, C.A., about a half hour outside of Los Angeles. Just coming off a show at the famous House of Blues in downtown L.A. the night before, Dave Hillyard, saxiphonist and tour manager, told the crowd as the band came on stage how strange it was to have never played in this area of California.
The crowd welcomed the group with open arms, already in the mood due to a strong set from opening act The Debonaires.
The Slackers’ Everyday is Sunday
Mission Tobacco Lounge had sold out over three days before the concert, so the venue was packed. Excited to get things going, singles, couples, and groups of friends began getting their groove on, as the Slackers encouraged dancing with their slick, convincing numbers. As is the case with most shows put on by the band, little small talk was to be had in the opening twenty minutes of the set, as the group crused through four to five songs they have practiced playing in order beforehand. Smooth transitions from one fan favorite to the next only drew a greater excitement from the crowd, whose smiles seemed to grow wider and wider as one jam was layered on top of the last.
At this point the band took a breather to get acquainted with the audience and prepare for the next subset. While onstage banter within the group has become an anticipated segment of the Slackers performance, the crowd was let down due to poor mixing of the vocal microphones. While all things sounded tight when the band was playing, this low frequency boom that occurred whenever the band attempted to talk to the audience was an annoying hinderance.
One nice thing about Slackers shows is you never see the same show twice — and the Slackers continued on that promise in Riverside. With an expansive catalog of tracks reaching into the hundreds, the group finds little reason to play rigid set lists, and so tends to vary it up after their opening list. Of course, plenty of fan favorites are always included. The group played some hits off of their latest album, The Great Rocksteady Swindle, such as “Bo Evil” and “Thank You,” as well as plenty of songs off of each of their previous releases. Some of the best included “Propaganda,” “No More Crying,” “Old Dog,” and “Every Day is Sunday.”
The band played plenty of their signature covers through the night, including an end of the set take on “Sexual Healing,” found half way through the classic “You Must be Good.” While Dave Hillyard and company came back on stage and originally promised “two or more” songs as an encore, it really turned out to be seven, leaving the audience feeling like they really received a special treat. After a performance of over two hours, the band bid their farewells, and audience members exited, tired and content, for their late night drives home.
Keep an eye out for the Slackers in your area, as they now head to Arizona, take a month off, and then tour the east coast and the UK in the spring.
Dean Goranites | OurVinyl Associate Editor