Skanksgiving 2014 – Starland Ballroom – Sayreville, NJ – 11/15/14

Skanksgiving once again came to Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey.  What has become a yearly tradition, Skanksgiving highlights some of ska music’s best local and national acts.  This year’s show showcased more of the reggae and rock steady sounding bands compared to last year.  The opening band was local New Jersey ska band Backyard Superheroes.  This was my third time photographing this band and even though they were the opening band and the floor wasn’t filled yet, they played their hearts out.  I am going to assume that even if it is only two people or 100 people, they will always bring the same energy.  Out of all the times I’ve seen this band, this was one of their best performances.  Constant jumping up and down, swinging instruments, and running on the bar, Backyard Superheroes are getting better and better with each performance.  I highly suggest checking this local band out.  They have a full length out now, which is self-titled, and if you see them playing in your area, check them out for a fun time.

The second local band was Avon Junkies from Staten Island, New York.  This was a band that I wasn’t familiar with.  However, with them being from New York, I am not familiar with the local music scene there.  Either way, Avon Junkies brought a different blend of ska to the show.  They have a mix of Reel Big Fish, listen to Avon Junkies song “Thanks For Getting Fat”, and later sounding Rx Bandits.  Think the album The Progress by Rx Bandits.  Avon Junkies kept the momentum going through the night while the floor started filling up.  Maybe we will start to see this band makes it way more down the New Jersey coast and into Pennsylvania.

The third band to perform, and have been quiet for some time, was Westbound Train.  By the time they took the stage, the floor was packed and the crowd was ready to dance.  Westbound Train played a short set of their best material and even snuck in a new song.  I have seen this band countless of times and I must say this was my favorite.  They sounded better than ever, and I hope they will play more than a few shows a year.  Maybe we will see a new album in 2015, one can only hope.

Newly reformed Mephiskapheles graced the stage next, playing their signature demonic ska.  My first introduction to Mephiskapheles was years ago on a ska compilation which featured the song “Doomsday”.  From there I listened to their back catalogue and even though some people may think their gimmick with Satan is funny, you can’t deny that these are musically trained musicians.  This band not only plays exceptionally well, they bring a lot of energy.  Between lead singer Andre Worrell and guitarist Dave Hahn, it was like they never stopped moving around to take a breath.  I am expecting to see Mephiskapheles playing a lot more shows in the coming year, it seemed like there is new life in them.

The first co-headliner of the night was The Slackers.  This is a band that has been around for years and if you know anything about the ska scene, you know who The Slackers are.  Unfortunately I felt their set was too short.  There was good reason for that though.  Vic Ruggiero, one of the main singers, wasn’t in attendance due to being sick.  That didn’t stop The Slackers from putting on a good show though.  Vocal duties were taken over by trombonist Glen Pine and saxophonist Dave Hillyard, who usually sing on songs.  Keyboards were done by Gideon Blumenthal of Westbound Train.  The Slackers are one of those bands where you just have fun and dance.  By this time of the night, the whole crowd was moving to their sound and even though it was a short set to me, it was enough to get my Slackers fix.

Closing the night was the ever energetic, The Pietasters.  My second time seeing this band and they never disappoint.  Lead singer Stephen Jackson is always comical on stage.  Not by what he says, but by his stage presence.  The faces he makes at his band mates and the crowd is always funny.  Of course the best part of their set is when Stephen gets into the crowd.  This is why I enjoy shows, seeing the band get interactive with the crowd.  Throughout The Pietasters set, they had guests join in from the other bands including Obi of Westbound Train and Dave and Glen of The Slackers.  Skanksgiving 2014 was one to remember, we will see if there is a Skanksgiving 2015 and I wonder if it can top this one.

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