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A quick little history lesson before I begin the review. Living in Connecticut has very few advantages to it, especially when it comes to music. A few years ago one of the few highlights that this state has seen made its name on the scene. Spring Heeled Jack became Connecticut's contribution to the ska explosion of the middle '90s. They released their first album, Static World View on the famed, late Moon Ska Records, and proceeded to release their second album, Songs From Suburbia, on Ignition Records. They gained a reputation of playing a very lively live show, as well as respect from all the rudies in the tri-state area. Spring Heeled Jack also had minor radio success with super-catchy single "Jolene," off of Songs From Suburbia. Sadly, SHJ went the way of many ska bands once the ska explosion fizzled out, they broke up in May of 2000, and went their separate ways, many of the members to be very successful in their new ventures. For example, SHJ trombonist Chris Rhodes went on to take a spot in the horn section of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Tyler Jones is now holding down part of the brass section in Reel Big Fish. Pete Wasilewski is now the saxophonist for a little band called Less Than Jake. The Lost City Angels are now fronted by from SHJ member Ron Ragona. And SHJ's drummer, Dave Karcich, went on to drum for the Pilfers and Mighty Mighty Bosstones guitarist Joe Gittleman's side project Avoid One Thing. Basically, what I am trying to say here is Spring Heeled Jack is to Connecticut what the Bosstones are to Massachusetts, what the Rancid and NOFX are to California, ect., ect., ect. They are one of the few good things that have originated from CT in a long time (I mean what do we have now? Hatebreed? WOOHOO), and them breaking up really hurt the scene here.
Anyways, having said that, trust me it pertains to this review, I'd like to talk a little about Dave Karcich, SHJ's former drummer. After leaving the band he jumped around to other ventures, finally settling in Avoid One Thing, and recording their self-titled debut that was released in 2002. Unfortunately, as AOT was about to begin their first national tour, opening for Flogging Molly, Dave suffered a brain aneurysm, and passed away. This loss was felt by a huge number of people. It was that community that came together to put together this tribute show to benefit the Dave Karcich Scholarship Fund. And I have to say, even without the real meaning behind this show it was one hell of a night, but the fact that there was something meaningful behind a night of music, it truly was one of the most amazing shows I have ever attended.
I unfortunately don't have much to say about the first few bands to play, The Beer Scouts of America, and Big Mistake (the first reunion set of the night), except that I know Dave was involved with them. The only notable highlight that came out of these two sets, for someone who has never seen these bands before, was Mike Pelligrino, the former vocals and guitar for Spring Heeled Jack, came out to sing along with the song that SHJ covered on their second album, which was originally Big Mistakes song, "Pop Song (Green)" (please note the accompanying picture from the end of the song). Either way, these two bands were rather well accepted by the crowd, and set the mood for the night.
Cenzo was the next band to take the stage at Toad's. Now, this was only Cenzo like third show, the first one actually was played with Dave Karcich as the drummer at the Knitting Factory in NYC. However, the band remained to be spearheaded by former Pilfers' trombonist Vinnie Nobile (also ex-Bim Skala Bim). Vinnie Came out and got the crowd going with a style all his own, a trombone in his left hand and his mic in his right. It was really a weird sight to see the lead singer also playing a horn. Anyways, after a few songs, Vinnie brought up his old band mates, Nick Bacon on guitar, and Coolie Ranx to do lead vocals for the now reunited Pilfers. And all of a sudden, BAM we got an entirely different show going on.
Even though the Pilfers only played three songs, their set was so full of the same energy that this band once had when it dominated the scene only a few years back. Playing three of their favorites, "Yakuza," "Generation," and "Hypnotized," the crowd not only enjoyed the songs, but you could tell they were reminiscing at the same time. It was this kind of feeling that was true for the entire night when it came to Dave Karcich. And then, as quickly as the Pilfers appeared, they were done, and left the stage, and the crowd was left to wonder if this was the last time the band would ever be together on the stage.
Avoid One Thing was the next band to take this stage. As I said, this was the last band that Dave worked with before he passed away, and his effect was shown as Joe Gittleman opened with a short story before they played their first song. "This is a song that Dave always encouraged us to play live, even though there wasn't any drums on it, but that just showed what kind of a guy Dave was." Avoid One Thing proceeded to open their set with the acoustic track "Take a Good Look." After the song, Joe put down the acoustic guitar and promised the crowd that he wouldn't pick it back up for the rest of the night. AOT's set picked up and started rocking from there on. Even though their set only lasted a short nine songs, almost all from their self titled debut, they managed to continue the high level of energy, and overall special feeling that was already radiating through the club that night. One particular highlight was a new song squished in between "Next Stop Batteries," and "Slip 78" entitled "Let Me Know." They closed out their set with the very heartfelt punk song "Bombs (Building Songs)." Joe made it very clear throughout their set that Dave was a very vital part of Avoid One Thing, and that he made a very big impression on him, and the band as a whole, and he will be sorely missed.
The next band in the line up was the Lost City Angels. They came out and, damn, did the crowd love them. They brought the crowd back to some insane music that sent the crowd off the hook. By now the anticipation of seeing Spring Heeled Jack reunite was reaching epidemic proportions, but hearing the Lost City Angels, the crowd was primed and ready. Even the band was playing the show with all of their heart; when their bassist Duggan cut his hand wide open, he finished out the set. I don't really have much to say about this band, mainly because I'm not completely familiar with their music, but I would make an effort to try to catch them live again, because they put on a hell of a show.
I just want to say a few words about the show itself before I conclude with my thoughts on Spring Heeled Jack's set. This show was a tribute show, that, in itself, says a lot about the people involved, and, it was because of that, that just being in the club, you could tell that this wasn't your ordinary show. The bands really wanted to be there, more importantly, the crowd wanted to be there. There weren't any asshole jocks in the crowd that just wanted to get drunk and mosh, or any posers that brought down the good feeling in the room. No, everyone at this show, really wanted to be there, and they all knew why they were there. This night was a dedication to one of their friends, and they were going to treat is as such. Before Spring Heeled Jack came on stage the band raffled off the prized that they had been selling tickets to all night (items donated by bands like Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, 2 Skinnee Js, The Pietasters, and Spring Heeled Jack themselves), and the crowd was also informed that they were able to raise over $8000 for the Dave Karcich Scholarship Fund. Pictures of Dave were also displayed periodically throughout the night on the projection screens in the club in memory of this dedicated musician.
Then it was finally time for the band of the night to take the stage. Spring Heeled Jack took the stage, and went right into "Man of Tomorrow" and "Mass Appeal Madness" and reminded the crowd of the good old days. This was what the entire crowd was there to see, and they showed their appreciation immediately. Everyone was singing along, yelling out song requests, and jumping on stage to skank along with the band. As the band rocked through their first reunited set, they put a smile on every person's face in light of the grim reason for the show. The band members each took an opportunity to remember their band mate and friend in between songs, with their own story to tell about the nicest guy in the band, Dave. SHJ went through more songs off of Static World View, and closed their set with "Jolene," and about a hundred kids on stage singing along. They did, however, come back for an encore, which included "Waiting, Watching," and then closed with the much-requested "1959." Overall, I have to say this was perhaps one of the most emotional sets by a band that I have ever seen, and it will be a long time before I see a show like this again. This show was a testament to a fallen musician, Dave Karcich, and everyone at this show will forever remember him.