Friday, November 28, 2008

Review: Pilfers Reunion Show @ The Middle East Downstairs, 11/22

Upon walking into The Middle East Downstairs venue in Cambridge last night (11/22/08), I look around the dark room lit by strings of Christmas lights, observing the merch tables pushing ska bands’ swag, watching a guy sporting a Toasters jacket saunter up to the bar, and I think to myself: I am home.

Pilfers, an NYC-based ska band formed in 1997, split up in 2001 after releasing only two albums. However, the band is making a return in 2008 by playing six reunion shows, starting in Philadelphia and making their way through Cambridge, Brooklyn, Asbury Park, Danbury, and Hartford. Tickets range from $15 to $20.

Sonic Boom Six, a female-fronted ska/punk/rap group from Manchester, UK, is opening for Pilfers on all the reunion show dates.

Having missed the first two bands – Boston Jolly Pirates and the Allstonians – I waited for the Murder Mile to take the stage. Based out of Boston, the Murder Mile is a 4-piece soul/punk/rock band. Although I’m usually not thrilled by non-ska bands’ sets at ska shows, these guys managed to get me to tap my feet and nod my head along with the melodies.

If Pilfers were looking for a high-energy band with an incredible stage presence and dance-able beats to get their crowd pumped, they could have done no better than to have Sonic Boom Six precede them. Laila, the spunky pink-haired singer wearing denim cut-off shorts and knee high socks, captured the audience’s attention by throwing her tiny body around the stage while belting out raps and choruses. The band opened with “Sounds of a Revolution,” a rap song with a ska beat about non-conformity and finding solidarity in music. Heavy on sing-along gang vocals and sound effects, SB6’s music is catchy yet original, a perfect precursor to Pilfers’ set.

I worked my way to the center of the crowd as soon as Pilfers took the stage. Former Toasters vocalist Coolie Ranx made sure to hop off the stage into the audience at least every other song, while I was literally astounded by the amount of talent trombonist Vinny Nobile, formerly of Bim Skala Bim, portrayed during their set. Pilfers played many crowd-pleasers, such as “Lay”, “Agua” and “Mr. Exploita.” They even had a new song to play – while it had a more relaxed, reggae beat than most of their previous ska songs, new Pilfers songs could perhaps mean new Pilfers records…? As a live set, the band could not get any tighter; every beat was perfectly on time and Vinny’s trombone solos were the epitome of polished horn lines. As nearly every person on the floor danced to Pilfers’ live songs, I was grateful that my $20 had not been wasted.

After attending the Pilfers show in Boston, I’m convinced that it will be well worth seeing them again on Friday in my hometown of Danbury, CT. Check out for show dates in a city near you this Thanksgiving break.

- Jackie Reiss

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