Performing "Peculiar" in it's Entirety
2109 South State St
Chicago, IL, 60616
This event is 17 and over
"The Slackers are part of an imaginary universe. It wasn't their fault, well not completely. The caterpillar
told them not to eat the mushroom on the right. But they did and for years now they've had to play
Imaginary-Jamaican-Rock-and-Roll, and try to explain that to everyone who passes. One asks,"Are you
a reggae band?...where are your dreadlocks then?" Another says,"YOU DONT SOUND LIKE PUNK-ROCK
WITH HORNS AT ALL!!" One elderly gent says,"Why it sounds like a lot of music I used to like, but I don't
think any of you boys look addicted to HEROIN!" Doomed to try and explain themselves to a world full of
hungry club-promoters, style-police, genre-slaves and the generally confused, they wrote bio upon bio,
hoping to snag someone...ANYONE!...who might understand...here is attempt #6,364…"
Vic Ruggiero, The Slackers
The Slackers have spreading their gospel of "Jamaican Rock N Roll" for 21 years
now. While they have been influenced, and even personally taught by Jamaican ska/
reggae originators, like the Skatalites and the Upsetters (Original backing band for
the Wailers) they play it with a decidedly American accent. Basically, this band is
equally appreciative of old blues, country, 60s soul, rock, and Rnb as it is of reggae,
rocksteady, dub, and Ska. It is as if the Rolling Stones or the Yardbirds had grown
up on Bob Marley as well as Muddy Waters.
Smashing the stereotypes of "ska" as happy,uptempo, and shallow music, the
Slackers play with an aggressive edge and their songs veer in themes from the
personal to the political. Back in 1996, the NY Times declared the Slackers to be
part of "the sound of New York", a mantle they haven't given up since. Ten years
later, Alternative Nation stated that their music is "protest music made for dim,
sweaty basements, The Slackers would sound at home supporting Rancid as well as
some grizzled New Orleans electric blues trio." The LA Weekly wrote about, "their
unfettered energy, unerring skankability, and playful anger."
The band basically divides its recorded output into 2 categories. First of are
their "albums", which are as sax player, Dave Hillyard, says with just a hint of
his typical sarcasm, "these are where we try to take over the universe." This
steady stream includes Better Late Than Never (1996), Red Light (1997), The
Question (1998), Wasted Days (2001), Close My Eyes (2003), Peculiar
(2006), Self Medication (2008), and The Great Rocksteady Swindle (2010).
The Great Rocksteady Swindle is a songwriting tour de force with all band
members contributing to its gutsy muscular sound. "Mr. Tragedy" references the
Specials while "Boll Weevil" references Sam Sham & the Pharaohs. "Cheated"
seethes with bitterness while "Thank You" offers the possibility of hope. As the band
has matured you can't even tell anymore where the rock begins and the reggae
ends, its become The Slackers. As band leader, Vic Ruggiero says, "we wanted to do
an album that feels real. You can hear the band punching its way through."
Not content with letting the record industry dictate their output schedule, the band
has also put out numerous eclectic and whimsical albums following their different
interests of the moment. Slackers & Friends (2002) saw the band performing with
some of their idols like The Congos, the late Glen Adams of the Upsetters, Cornell
Campbell, and Doreen Schaeffer. International War Criminal EP (2004) was a
bitter broadside against the Bush Administration. Afternoon in Dub (2005) is pure
reggae bliss. Boss Harmony Sessions (2007) was a collaboration with DJ Boss
Harmony who arranged and refiltered tracks in unorthodox ways. Lost & Found
(2009) is a compilation of forgotten tracks, alternate versions, and remakes from the
bands recording vaults.
Their most recent release, The Radio, is a change of pace, being their first all cover
album. This was the brainchild of Whatevski Records' mogul, Tom Gibbons, who had
an idea of a fantasy old school FM radio station where all the songs were played by
the Slackers. The result is creative re-workings of Atttitude (Misfits), Bitch (Rolling
Stones), The Letter (Box Tops) amongst others. The most startling track was an
especially tender reggae ballad version of a track Madonna made famous, 'Like a
Virgin.' As Hillyard explains, "cover records have a bad rep in the Ska world, we
wanted to avoid this and find songs we could be true to. Our goal was to make
better versions than the original song. We didn't want something cute…oh look a
reggae version y'know? With 'Like a Virgin', Vic is able to live the song and takes
away all the cute bubble gum delivery of the original and is able to get to the deeper
meaning of the lyrics."
The band has also put out 3 live albums; Live At Ernestos (2000), Upsetting
Ernestos (2005), Slack In Japan (2005), and 2 DVDs; The Slackers: A
Documentary (2007) and Live at the Flamingo Cantina (2009).
More recently, the band has started releasing their live concerts through
www.whatevski.org and has plans for releasing more compilations digitally.
This focus on the live show is not surprising because the Slackers have a good part
of their existence on the road. Since 1997, the band has been doing around 110
shows a year. This includes some 28 major North American tours, 16 European tours, 3 Japanese tours and 3 Brazilian tours. They have played in 43 different US
states, 6 canadian provinces, 22 european countries, 5 Latin American nations,
Turkey, Japan, and South Korea.
They have appeared on the stages of the Warped Tour (1998), the Lowlands
Festival (1999), Pukkelpop (1999, 2004), CMJ (2000), Montreal Jazz
Festival (2000), the Bourges Festival (2001), the Dour Festival (2002, 2007),
Deconstruction Tour (2004), Augustboller (2005), Streetbeat Festival
(2005), Popkomm (1999,2006), Summerjam (2007), Mighty Sounds (2007),
Ilosaarirock (2007), Glastonbury (2008), Beautiful Days (2010), Rebellion
(2010), and Ink N Iron (2009,2012).
They have opened for Rancid (1999,2003, 2006), Hepcat (1999), Joe Strummer
(2002, 2003), Floggin Molly (2002), Jimmy Cliff (2002), the Beat (2002),
Pennywise (2004), Toots & the Maytals (2005), The Pogues (2006), John
Spencer's Heavy Traffic (2007),and The Specials (2010).
They have sold out numerous headlining gigs including such venues as Bowery
Ballroom (nyc, 2 times), Slims (San Francisco, 5 times), Lee's Palace (Toronto, 3
times), The Underworld (London), Troubadour (LA, 3 times in 2006 alone), the
Knitting Factory (NYC, 5 times), the Melkweg (A-dam), SESC Pompeia (Sao
Paolo, 2 nights in 2006), and the Loft (Tokyo, 2 times).
Hopefully, if you have read this far, you are starting to get the point that the
Slackers are a phenomenon. A worldwide phenomenon. An underground band with
a cult following, they can fill venues everywhere!
The band has come a long way from their little dirty rehearsal studio on e.3 rd street
on the lower east side.
$20.00 - $60.00
Performing Peculiar: Released in 2006. Peculiar is at the same time a very personal album and a very political album. Released in the wake of the 2nd Gulf War and the follies of the Bush administration, Peculiar is full of angry tunes such as 'International War Criminal', 'Keep It Simple', and 'Rider.' There are also some great moments of personal pathos including the soul/rock ballad, 'What Went Wrong' and the bluebeat shuffle, 'Peculiar.'