Saturday, October 14, 2006
Stop, Drop 'N Skank
Avondale Alternative School held a student organized fund raiser on Friday the 13th and they had no bad luck whatsoever. Headlining the evening were Stop,Drop'N Skank, a ska-reggae outfit in it's early stages of development. The evening was rounded out with performances by students 'n staff.
My son Michael filmed the event as part of his own apprenticeship. mrmikelproductions is starting to get it's legs, as chances for practice and promotion keep popping up.
Here's how it went down on Friday night.
The students are stoked. A youthful excitement permeates the gymnasium. Or is that the tantilizing scent of the forbidden fragrance, AXE? Squealing girls and posing boys bounce and bray on the boards. They've spent a good amount of time and energy decking the hall out in two-tone checkers, one step beyond 1979. Tables at the back are filled with pastries and pop. No special brownies allowed. We're ready for a sock-hop, though they'd never call it that without blushing.
Within a half hour of doors the gym is filling up pretty good. A small contingency from SD'nS takes the stage for a warm-up number, a la Billy Bragg, one electric guitar. Dan, lead singer/guitarist, sings a new song, a pop-tune probably called "Won't Say Anything At All". A bitterweet tale about hit-and-miss kissing and that precarious path that lies between a boy's desire and his skills.
Dan gives the stage over to Ian Turner, the performing principal. A little outside the box for a principal but all the staff here seem to have a great rapport with the kids. One teacher helped with the sound, another was all aglow chasing students around with her digital camera to catalogue the extravaganza. It was like a prom without all the cherry busting and puking.
Ian's set gave me a chance to recognize some songs. He reaches back into the heyday of popular music...the 50's and 60's to perform the classics. Earlier he'd told me he would have never made it through University without the focus music gave him. We were discussing the effort and talent the young kids displayed...from the performers, to the organizers and the kid behind the camera. All of them testing themselves and their world. At the center of it all, music.
The kids are dancing up a storm as Ian drives through a fast version of The Shirelles, Mama Said. A good life lesson, even if you're not still in school. He follows with the Goffin/King song, made famous by The Drifters, Up On The Roof. Now if you'd bet me I'd be thinking about Clyde McPhatter tonight you could have take a hundred bucks off me.
Ian moves on, warning the kids it's time to slow it down, before he croons an Isaac Hayes penned tune that I believe he came to like when Sam & Dave performed it, When Something Is Wrong With My Baby. It's a bit difficult to hold the attention of combustible teens with these types of songs but Ian's doing great. There's some distracted chatter from the periphery, more than offset by some slow dancers in the center of the gym.
We're back to The Shirelles for another 'prom night' classic...Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? Not sure if anybody's up for answering but it does get the crowd engaged in a clap-a-long.
For his closing number Ian funks it up a bit and pulls out the Sam Cooke gem, Twisting the Night Away. It's the Sam Cooke version, not the Rod Stewart version, trust me on this. What a great set of feel good, feel sad, feel something songs.
Next onstage is a student and diva-in-the-making, Kabota. She bounces onto the stage with a smile that provides more light than the rather rudimentary spots being used this evening. She seems slightly embarassed by the hoots and hollers of her friends as she displays her wonderful singing talents but she has no reason to be shy. Her two songs are done 'karaoke' style, with canned music. There's nothing canned about her prescence as she gives a shout out to 'the hood', her Avondale posse. She doesn't aim low with her songs either as she belts out Mariah Carey's Vision of Love to the howling appreciation of her friends. This is followed by a cover of Whitney Houston's He Fills Me Up. I think that's a metaphor. A strong voice with excellent range and another enjoyable interlude.
SD'nSkank are back onstage for their first set of the show. Drummer Gavin introduces Stacey, who's on trumpet, and Andy, who plays the trombone, as this evening's dance instructors. Guitarists Dan ,Stefan and bassist Aaron provide the beat as the "skank" is demonstrated. It's a simple enough dance, you bend over at the waist like you're trying to hide an unfortunate accident, and trot on the spot, arms flailing. If that description doesn't tell you why I don't dance, nothing will. It ain't about me though, not by far, it's about the kids, and they are alright. Gavin sits down behind the drums to pick up the rhythm. Lesson complete, audience warm. It's time to get steeped.
Gavin starts the song with a smash opening, followed by Stefan's slashing guitar chords before James Dean explodes from the PA system. We got the full 'two-tone' sound going on this composition as the horns are front and center. It's a song about how the beauty of James Dean makes even us guys feel funny.
It's followed by another machine-gun ska song, Water...girl troubles I think.
One piece of advice I can give the band here: no need to drop the "f bomb" in every song. I mean there's no doubt it's a versatile word. Maybe the most but repetitive use of the word is more a sign of 'verbal laziness' than 'coolness'. Get a thesaurus, there's other ways to convey the sentiment.
The music is electric though. They are missing one of their trumpets, Julia is absent tonight, but they are a dervish of sound and activity onstage. They have a very good sense of how they come across. When the horns aren't playing the players are skanking. Everyone moves always, save Aaron on bass but you can chalk that up to the 'bill wyman syndrome'.
The first set wraps up with Reptile, which I think is a song about licking. Much heavier sound to this, more rock than ska or reggae. Last song is reminiscent of "My Daughter Is One" (extra points if you know where that came from), Our Outdoor Friends, a song about the thin line.
A brief break allows some to catch a breath of fresh air, others to catch a breath of less fresh air.
The second set starts with three 'emo' songs from a couple of guys who make up another local band, Snatch. They are followed by a student, Azad, who performs three impressive flamenco songs. Both these artists needed a more subdued environment for their talents to shine. This is a rock concert. Snatch can be found of myspace. Azad, well, he's really good and should get his own concert.
Stop, Drop 'N Skank are back to close the night with an instrumental while Stacey took a bathroom break.
In the second set we get a reggae sounding "Faith", and no reggae band is complete without a song about the lovely green.
I'm too old and my kids are too subdued for me to have any idea what "Ritalin Rock" is about.
Show ends with this generations version of "Save the Last Dance For Me", a much more forward "Stay the Night". Seems the boys have overcome some of the clumsiness they showed in their earlier 'girl' songs.
For an amateur production this was one enjoyable evening. Good luck to Avondale and SD'nS.