Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Slackers at Manchester 65: The Best Reason to Drive 200 Miles Each Way

The Slackers are my favorite band.  Last night, despite living in Central Jersey, I drove 200 miles, which took just over four and a half hours, thank you New York traffic, to see the Slackers at Manchester 65.  I nearly was unable to find the club, since I was not expecting Manchester 65 to be a formerly abandoned factory, surrounded by real abandoned factories, in a residential area.  I expect tonight's show at the 89 North in Patchogue to actually be located in the middle of Chelmsford, given some of the fine places I've been in the last few weeks.  Amazing, I arrived in time to see the first band and was struck by how much the place looks like someone shoved a bar and a stage in an abandoned factory.  Really, the opposite of the Chance in Poughkeepsie. 

But I made it in time to see the first band, Coronado, which might have been good, but sadly did not have the experience with getting the volumes right, but when you see people in a band half your age, you realize that is part of the learning curve.  The Ocean Roots were a very pleasant surprise, reminding me of the Pilfers, with a large trombone sound and a surprisingly non-offensive sample deck.  Finally, the Copacetics came on and were excellent, a nice slow down with more traditional sounds leading up to the Slackers.  Really, I was pleasantly surprised by all of the opening acts, which is always a plus. 

Finally, the Slackers were ready to play.  As I always try to do, I got right up in front on Vic's side of the stage.  I saw that Marcus passed out the setlist for the night.  Usually, I try to avoid looking at the list, in order to be surprised, but I couldn't help but look at the she right in front of me.  I also avoid looking, so I don't get that small pang of disappointment seeing that once again the Slackers are not playing Sarah or some song I really want to hear was not listed.  Of course, with a deep catalog of over 100 songs, almost all of which are excellent, the set is always fantastic.  However, I quickly noticed Sarah, which was part of the reason I drove 200 miles, since it seems they are more likely to play Sarah away from New York than near it. 

Then, my heart rose as I saw And I Wonder?, which is my second favorite Slackers song and contains my favorite line of all, "Counting all of the postcards I wrote but never sent", which sums my life up as neatly as any phrase ever will.  Despite 15 Slackers shows, I only heard it live once, way back in 1998 if memory serves me and seldom find it appearing on any of their live songs available anywhere, save the live Maxwell's show they released as part of their Big Tunes money raising reaching $30,000.  Of course, the show is uncut, so I don't have it as a track, but like all great Slackers shows, always worth a full listen. 

So, the hour arrives and the Slackers take the stage.  The show was, of course, magical.  I'm always impressed by the entire band and they delivered.  The set was full of songs from The Question, Better Late Than Never, and Wasted Days, three of the finest albums ever released.  Surprisingly, nothing from Close My Eyes, with nary an Old Dog to be heard for the first time in a forever for me and only one song from Redlight.  But this speaks to the depth of the Slackers catalog.  I think they could legitimately come up with 23 different songs for tonight and put on an equally amazing set.

Each solo and song feels intentionally picked out.  I never go away anything less than blown away by one of Dave Hillyard's incredibly long solos or watching him play the solo from the Fool with just one hand.  And the way Agent Jay just plays a tremendous solo which fits the song, even if it wasn't in the original.  Of course, I can never say enough good things about Vic and the way he leads so many of the songs and plays the organ. 

In addition to the amazing musicianship, the stage show was excellent.  The banter was always witty and fresh.  Vic managed to get the entire crowd to scream out the bass part to Wasted Days after destroying a beer on stage to open the encore, followed by some very funny shotgunning.  Glen was really great getting the crowd involved, though when I had the microphone shoved in my face, my mind went blank on the chorus of Attitude, which shames me to no end and in my youth would have led me to not going to tonight's show or at least hanging back, instead of jamming myself on the stage. 

I remain excited to see them again, which will be my 16th Slackers show and hold out the dream tonight is the night I am there when they play Stars live.  Though I'd easily settle for hearing This is the Night or really, whatever they want to play, it's all amazing and completely worth the 400 miles and 8 hours I spent in the car yesterday and the 200 miles and 5 hours I'll spend in the car today. 

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