Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Aquabats at Gramercy Theatre or Defying Expectations at a Ska Show

If you've ever been to a ska show, you know there are really two times you need to know, the time on the ticket and the time you should actually consider showing up.  The time on the ticket is usually illustrative of when the doors will open, but really is not the time you want to arrive.  The North Arlington high school band might be a find marching band, but eight of them getting together to form a ska band wasn't my idea of a good time 20 years ago, and is less so today.  Even worse, the Vernon high school band will have the same idea and follow them.  You can tell their friends, because they are the only people at the show who've heard any of these songs before, aside from what is usually a poor choice for a cover, picking a Specials or Operation Ivy song, which they manage to mangle. 

So, having experienced this enough times, you learn to take a measured eye to when you want to show up.  So, the Aquabats were playing an early show this evening at the Gramercy Theatre, with doors at 6 PM.  So, there was one announced opening band, which often means two or more bands, just no one important enough to mention.  And most shows in New York fail to start on time or even an approximation of on time.  So, I decided to get there for 8 PM, figuring music starts at 7, gives enough time for one or two bands, but likely gets me there to watch the Aquabats.

I arrive promptly at 7:58 PM, executing my timetable perfectly, where I was given a cursory bag check by one of the four men guarding the door who don't care, followed by a look, but not a scan of my ticket.  This boded ill in my book, because I've never failed to at least get a scan and an opportunity for a wristband, should I want to purchase a high-priced adult beverage. Walking in the door, I'm greeted by the Aquabats on stage...stating it is nearly time to go home.  In a first for a NYC ska show, the Aquabats went on around 7:15 PM, with no notice from either the Gramercy Theatre or Aquabats social media.  Generally, bands have wizened up and post the time they are going, so people don't miss the show they might have paid $30 to see.  I actually paid $30 to see approximately 1/3 of the Aquabats show.

As an aside, this is the third time I've seen the Aquabats live.  In the 1990s, I saw the Aquabats as part of the Warped Tour, good, not great.  In the 2000s, I saw the Aquabats, with the Aggrolites opening for them at BB King's in New York.  To this day, the show remains the only time I purchased a ticket outside the venue, since I desperately wanted to see the Aggrolites at this sold out show.  The Aggorlites were phenomenal and the Aquabats were very good.  Tonight fulfilled my need to see the Aquabats in the 2010s. 

Not only did I miss 2/3 of the show, I was greeted by six plus minutes of uninspired stage banter.  Six minutes is a long time to talk on stage between songs, which also included specific instructions for men, women, and appropriate hugging during the song.  Fortunately, I avoided all hugging.

The best part of the show was the background videos.  The Aquabats put a lot of care into the video clips they splice together and loop for each song.  During Captain Hampton and the Midget Pirates, they played clips from Treasure Island, that were well chosen and actually quite funny separated from the rest of the film. 

Unfortunately, musically, the show did not hold up.  I barely caught Super Rad, which is one of their better songs and it came across a bit weak, without full singing and some incomplete horn work, even given there was only a saxophone player.  The other songs were perfectly acceptable, but not worth the time I spent to get to New York to see the Aquabats.  They closed with Pool Party, which required bringing every small child on stage, except for the two children who walked in with their father at 8:30 PM as the hard out was about to be enforced.

Sadly, this is only the second worst show experience of 2015, as there is a Toasters show at the Brighton Bar, one of the finest concert venues in New Jersey, that lives in infamy.  


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