Last Saturday at the legendary Toad’s Place in New Haven, Connecticut, was one for the local, old-school ska punk family as Spring Heeled Jack made their triumphant return to their hometown stage. The band have played only a handful of shows since effectively reuniting a few years ago after a decade-long absence, making for a special evening when they do dust off the dancing shoes and fire up the old tunes. The lineup has changed several-fold over the last few years as original members have either passed on (drummer Dave Karcich sadly died of a cerebral aneurysm in 2010) or moved on to comparatively greener pastures (Chris Rhodes to the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, (Re)Pete Wasilewski to Less Than Jake) but the core singer-guitarist combo of Ron Ragona and Mike Pellegrino remains in tact, and trumpeteer/lovable wild card Tyler Green continues to remain the humorous, slightly-off-the-rails lynchpin of the horn section.
Spring Heeled Jack, long considered (by me anyway) to be one of the more underrated bands of a genre that flamed out too quickly, drew the bulk of their headlining set on this particular night from their two studio full-lengths, 1996’s criminally-underrated Static World View and 1998’s Songs from Suburbia. Any ska-punk band worth their salt in the genre’s late-1990s heyday had a live show that consisted of a ball of frenetic energy, and Spring Heeled Jack were certainly no exception to that rule “back in the day.” Despite being on the other side of seventeen years without a new album (which my god makes this particular writer feel ancient) and with a handful of new members (Corky Evans on drums, Peet Golan on bass, Nick Bacon and his sunglasses-at-night on keys, Tom Quartulli and Mike DeMatteo and the latter’s kick-ass white sport coat on saxophone), the band seemed arguably as tight and impassioned as ever, though perhaps it helps playing to a hometown crowd consisting largely of friends, family, and longtime fans.
Support on this night came from a veritable variety show of acts. Local one-named comedian Beecher provided between set banter, though a few showgoers in the otherwise generally tame crowd started to turn on him rather vociferously by the end of his last set. Direct support came from legendary NY ska punk vets Mephiskapheles who, though packed like sardines (or perhaps like tuna?) into the front of the crowded stage, played with an energy that belied their having eclipsed the quarter-century mark as a band. Boston-based four-piece Party Bois preceded the satanic ska-punk octet and were, well, a mystery wrapped inside a cocaine-and-power-suit-fueled 1980s wedding party of an enigma. Trying to sum up the experience that is Party Bois in a scant few sentences is a near impossible task. The band was started somewhat on a lark by Spring Heeled Jack frontman Ron Ragona and friends (though Ragona no longer performs with Party Bois; he’s more of a Party Bois Emeritus), the project took on a life of its own. It’s synth-pop that takes itself incredibly seriously and, somehow, not seriously at all, making for an experience that’s either incredibly surreal or, more probably, incredibly awesome. Seriously…just watch this and see if you can figure it out. Local openers The Hulls are a straight-forward street punk band from New Haven who evoke bands more ‘classic’ New England punk bands like Darkbuster (and even covered a Darkbuster track) and along with newer bands like The Scandals or The Darlings, all of whom are near and dear to my own personal heart.
Check out our photo gallery from the fun, varied night below!