Saturday night, I made my first ever trip to Poughkeepsie. There is something irresistible about a Pilfers show where there is hope that Vinny Nobile is back with the band. Worried about a sellout, I pre-purchased my ticket a few days ahead of time and leave to arrive by 7 PM for the doors opening. Amazingly, I avoid getting lost, even at the end and make the trip in two hours flat. Arriving at a parking lot, I see another couple clearly heading to the show, given their ska fan appearance and some small amounts of checkerboard.
Arriving, I see Rev Sinister from the Hub City Stompers standing outside, which is always a good sign the show is going on, but learn two things. One, the club is not opening until 7:30 PM and two, Mephiskapheles and Rude Boy George pulled out of the show. The first ended up being the far worse news, since I refuse to wear a jacket to a show unless required by long walks, but the second meant that I would see the bands I would enjoy the most from the original lineup only.
So, I brave the mean streets of Poughkeepsie and head over to the Family Dollar, which looked like the most inviting place to spend fifteen or so minutes. Aside from the panhandler who hit me up for money, the trip was uneventful, but I would say the urban decay would not encourage me to ever go to Poughkeepsie without great reason. Walking back, we only have to wait another 15 minutes in the cold for the door, which was fine, since it was about 40 out and I was wearing a short-sleeve soccer jersey. And I'm immune to the cold.
Going inside, I see this amazing concert venue, which could only exist in a blighted area. The Chance is a 1920s theatre with two levels, a pit area, tables, and a sizable bar. It speaks to you if you like antiquity and history in your life, which I certainly do. The bathrooms are in a deep cellar, which I did not care for at all, but you cannot have everything in an old building. The acoustics are also excellent, which is not surprising, considering it is two stories and designed as a theatre back when people cared about aesthetics. As a venue, you could only ask for a better location, but I would not call the area unsafe, unless you are not aware of your surroundings.
There was also a merchandise area, which I am a sucker for, if for no other reason than I like supporting what I enjoy. I saw that Coolie Ranx, the front man for the Pilfers was manning his own table, with whom I suspect was his wife. I decide that after seven Pilfers shows, I need a Pilfers shirt and ask him about the blue and orange Pilfers shirt. When he didn't have it in the arena, he was nice enough to go out to his car and get another bag of merchandise in order to find the shirt in my size. I purchase the shirt and thank him for his efforts and the great shows over the years. We even talked for a moment about the record release party for Chawalaleng back in 1999, which was a crazy and amazing show in a super no vacancy Wetlands. I also picked up another Hub City Stompers CD, because I greatly enjoyed Dirty Jersey, purchased at the prior night's show.
The Hub City Stompers came on and I managed to score a good standing area at eye level near the bar under an awning. As with the night before, they put on a really great show, with some very clever, but admittedly non-PC lyrics. Also, for a band putting on their first two shows in over a year, they have great chemistry and stage presence, to go along with some really great Oi-infused ska. I enjoyed myself so much, I'm going to see them again, this Friday, at Asbury Lanes.
Finally, I saw the Pilfers set up and was super excited. I knew Vinny Nobile played with the Pilfers in mid-January, which was the reason I decided to drive two hours to see them, but was slowly crushed by the presence of an organ, which Vinny does not play. I knew this meant the other trombone player who performed with them at the Big Apple Stomp would be performing this night. Now, back in May 2013, he was what I would charitably call, not very good, then shown up by Vinny Nobile playing a few songs with his trademark style and sound. In retrospect, the biggest issue was trying to play the trombone into a standing microphone like most people, unlike Vinny, who puts a wireless mic at the front of his trombone. Well, I noticed that Ben was doing the same thing...and I drove all the way there...and Coolie was super nice to me, so I was willing to give it a chance.
And I was not disappointed in the least. They opened with the Intro and Dr. Kevorkian from their debut album and Coolie was great and the rest of the sound was there. It wasn't quite as good as Vinny Nobile playing with the Pilfers, but then again, I don't think anyone plays the trombone as well as he does in this context. For most of the night. though Yakuza and Show No Fear were a little off (but played back to back, like I do in my car), but not to ruin the experience, the horn parts sounded roughly similar, with the right level of sound, critical to get that real Pilfers sound. And the rest of the band were great as always. Coolie puts on a great show and even put the microphone to me in the audience to yell into, which never happened at any of the other 100 or so shows I've been to in the past.
Given that, I went back, bought the first Pilfers album on LP to eventually hang on my wall, realized that I was hoarse from singing for the last hour fifteen, like Coolie wanted us to be, then headed home, knowing that I would pretty much go see any Pilfers show within a reasonable distance, which is probably shorter than Rhode Island, but further than Delaware. In essence, the Pilfers are still one of the best live experiences you will ever see from a ska band and definitely something you should never miss unless required by work, law or unreasonable travel.