By Katie Knowlton
Streetlight Manifesto kicked off their “Four Out of Seven in Three Before Nine” tour Wednesday night playing a sold-out show at the Crazy Donkey in Farmingdale.
The relatively young crowd danced and sang along to every song in Streetlight’s hour-long set, which included ones from both of their full-length records, Everything Goes Numb and Somewhere in the Between, and from the Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution e.p., A Call to Arms, much to the pleasant surprise of the audience.
They opened with the first single from Somewhere in the Between, “We Will Fall Together,” a perfect example of how Streetlight mixes punk rock with ska horns and beats. The song features quickly-sung, almost spoken, lyrics and an insanely fast tempo made for moshing or skanking, staples of Streetlight Manifesto songs.
Tomas Kalnoky, founder and only remaining original member of Streetlight, led the band through an extremely high-energy set, taking only brief pauses between songs. Kalnoky sang with his signature rough passion, giving added urgency to the already speedy songs. The downside to was that, unless the listener already knew the words, it was hard to follow along and really experience the deep lyrics. Songs like, “Here’s to Life” and “A Better Time, A Better Place” lose their anti-suicide message in the chaos of live performance, but that did not seem to bother many members of the crowd.
The only songs that slowed the pace were “On and On and On,” a track originally from Kalnoky’s old band, Catch-22 and “It’s a Wonderful Life” from the Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution. “On and On and On” was originally on Catch 22’s seminal ska-punk album, Keasbey Nights, which was re-recorded by Streetlight in 2006. The song was slowed down significantly from it’s original incarnation, and it had almost a reggae feel to it, which also allowed the perpetually moshing audience to rest. It was grouped with “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the obnoxiously-titled “They Provide the Paint for the Picture-Perfect Masterpiece That You Will Paint on the Insides of Your Eyes,” both tracks from BOTAR, a side project featuring members of Streetlight and numerous other musicians. For these songs, Kalnoky switched to an acoustic guitar and Pete McCullough, the bassist, to a stand-up bass, hence the “acoustic” part of Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution. Both songs were slightly slower than the rest of the set, and were well received by both new and old fans of Streetlight.
Featured prominently on all of the songs was the horn section, obviously. Comprised of Jim Conti, Mike Brown, Mike Soprano, and Matt Stewart, Streetlight’s horn section is one of the tightest in the genre. Not only do they play some of the most complex lines to be found in ska, they play them nearly perfectly when live. Often ska horn players don’t harmonize well on stage, despite whatever sound they may have recorded, but the men of Streetlight play with almost CD quality perfection, a sign that the band is at the forefront of 3rd wave ska.
The entire band played strongly through the entire set, closing with “Somewhere in the Between,” the title track from their last album. After leaving the stage, the crowd began chanting “One more song,” which quickly turned into “Ten more songs, please!” The band reemerged to play two more, the combo of “A Moment of Silence” and “A Moment of Violence,” closing out one of the strongest ska sets most of the young audience had likely ever seen. The only unfortunate part of the evening was that they did not play the fan-favorite and former set staple medley of “Point/Counterpoint” and “Keasby Nights.” But overall, it was an amazing show, performed by some of the most talented guys in ska.
Opening for Streetlight Manifesto were The Homecoming Queens, The A.K.A’s, The Swellers, and the Fear Nuttin Band. This reviewer did not purchase tickets beforehand, and therefore was outside when The Homecoming Queens and The A.K.A’s were on, but apparently they were both very good.
The Swellers, from Flint, Michigan, brought their brand of infectious, straightforward pop-punk. Though relatively unknown by the crowd, they were well received and likely made many new fans. They offered up catchy hooks, relatable lyrics, and beats suited for circle pits.
The Fear Nuttin Band was an interesting mix of reggae, hip-hop, and hard rock. Featuring dual vocalists, FNB mixed rapping and straight singing. They also interacted the most with the crowd, asking who “smoked ganja” and initiating more than one call and response. Again, they appeared to be rather unknown to the audience, but they tried their hardest to get everyone into their music and succeeded spectacularly.
This tour is not to be missed: it offers up an interesting and diverse mix of musical acts with widely varying styles, all of which are highly talented and energetic.