Live Review: Sublime Tribute Band Wrong Way with The Taj Motel Trio at Smith’s Olde Bar

Photos by Stephanie Heath (Facebook/Instagram) – Gallery Found Below

On August 17th Smith’s Olde Bar was bustling with the usual bar flies and concert goers that were partaking in their decompression from a stressful work week. Small hurdles of people crowded the stoop, getting their nicotine and breath of fresh air between shots and sets. Friends gathered around tables of libations, trading conversations of their weekly plights. Patrons were already queueing up to enter Smith’s iconic Music Room before the doors were even open for the night. And there was just cause for this pile up of music enthusiasts. Slated to play that night were Georgia’s own Wrong Way, a seasoned tribute band to Sublime,  and The Taj Motel Trio, a ska band slated to play at this year’s DragonCon.

After attendees got lubed up on drinks and conversation, the curtains in the Music Room drew back to reveal the first act of the night, The Taj Motel Trio. A band hailing from Habersham County, these guys are comprised of the standard trio of a vocalist and guitarist, bassist, and drummer but with the addition of two trumpets, two trombones, and a baritone sax. These guys boast the largest brass section I have even seen in a ska band. And if you didn’t notice, The Taj Motel Trio is not a trio, as their name comes from an inside joke with roots in the band’s hometown. However, names and jokes aside, these guys are the real deal when it comes to performing. Although they are stacked on the brass side, The Taj Motel Trio played a balanced set between all their musicians, with each member of the band given a chance at the spotlight.  Their songs had strong brass intros with harmonies that were sweet on the ears followed by wicked guitar melodies paired with an aligned drum and bass beat. On top of the technical expertise of the band to create a full sound, they show their nerdy side with what they sing about, including video games and Star Wars, with one of their songs literally called “Vader”. Overall, The Taj Motel Trio has the charisma and energy that embodies the spirit of ska music. I give a heavy stamp of approval and look forward to their debut at this year’s Dragon Con.

To continue the night, Atlanta’s own Wrong Way took to the stage with a cool vibe that holds true to their inspiration for their music, Sublime. A classic three piece act, with their lead guitarist on vocals, the band instantly stole the spotlight from the moment the curtains were drawn back, revealing a packed house. This being Wrong Way’s first show in Atlanta in a good while, as the band is constantly touring the southeast, the crowd in attendance really was a testament to the talent behind the band. Each musician had distinct melodies you could pick out in each of their songs that came together in a dovetail of pure delight to the ears. Their drummer has a timeshare in the pocket that he checked into from the first song of the night. He both held the set down and played around with complex melodies to give his drumming more character, something only seen with true masters of the kit. Wrong Way’s bassist kept it real with his impeccable taste in rhythmic beats that rock the soul. His groove could not be derailed by anything other than the occasional sip of a beer to keep his playing loose. The band’s front man guitarist, the last piece of this puzzle that forms a picture of true talent, killed it with his showmanship not to mention his talent on vocals or on guitar. He truly does Sublime’s original front man Brad Nowell justice allowing him to rest easy knowing Wrong Way does his music right. The band played through a full set that consisted of fan favorites of Sublime such as “Santeria” and “Smoke Two Joints” that got the entire venue up in a sing-a-long and even an acoustic break in the middle where their front man got intimate with the audience. Each song had the crowd up in a dance party even with some flow art involved. It was a truly uplifting vibe all around, which is a mark of true connection between a band and it’s audience. Finishing out the night with “Caress Me Down” there was only a room of smiles remaining with the occasional cheering from a patron for more. Wrong Way is definitely a band not to miss if you are looking to get your fix on some good music.

Smith’s Music Room once again hosted some of the best musicians and music fans of today’s scene. As this was my first time visiting this magical venue, I look forward to the next show I catch here, and the next 20 or more after that.

Photo Gallery – Taj Motel Trio

 

Photo Gallery – Wrong Way

Live Review: Save Ferris New Sound Tour at Masquerade with Burns Like Fire

Review by Daniel Karasek. Photos (at the end of the article) by Shaun Krisher

The air was heavy with anticipation on February 25 for the Save Ferris, Baby Baby, and Burns Like Fire show in Hell at the new Masquerade located in Underground Atlanta. The crowd huddled in the warmth of Hell as a brisk breeze of winter air finally came to the city. Pockets of conversation could be heard about the coming show, with occasional chatter about the new Masquerade placement. Everyone seemed to dig the new setting for the seasoned Atlanta music venue. Many attendees were crowding the back bar to get their fix before the night of music debauchery. Others were already waiting by the stage for the opening act to kick start the night. It was the same old vibe of Masquerade we have come to love. As it turns out, Underground Atlanta pairs well with Atlanta’s underground culture that has made a home at the infamous Masquerade.

The first act of the night, Burns Like Fire, broke the ice with a cover of “I’ll Be There For You” (you’re welcome for getting that stuck in your head). Immediately the audience got riled up and sang along to the classic opening theme song from Friends. There was a buildup of energy between Burns Like Fire and the crowd that culminated throughout their set. The band was very cohesive with both their stage presence and sound, leaving a trail of broken necks in the wake of each song. Even with the recent departure of their bass player and vocalist Charley Ferlito, Web, Josh, and Parker put on a show to get any audience pumped up. As a punk band from Athens, it was a pleasure for them to take a bar break and shred some for their fans.

Baby Baby took the stage as the second act of the night. There was instant hype from the crowd the second that they took the stage, carrying over the tidal wave of energy started by Burns Like Fire. Except that tidal wave became a monsoon as Baby Baby jammed through song after song of pure rock. Their proclaimed genre of fun rock really fits the bill with Baby Baby as not an immobile body was seen in the crowd, just a bunch of rockers kicking it to the sweet tunes of the evening. The double percussion split between Grant and Colin adds in a crispy, crunch beat that pairs well with the popping bass riffs of Hsiang-Ming and guitar licks of their sassy front man Fontez Brooks. Not only was their sound on point, Baby Baby also puts on one hell of a show with it ending with Hsiang-Ming playing bass atop the shoulders of Colin with Grant pumping out killer beats and Fontez, shirtless, hyping the crowd with his savage guitar stylings. These guys are not an act to be missed.

For the headliner of the evening, Monique Powell graced the stage as the front for Save Ferris. Yes, THE Save Ferris. The one you haven’t heard of in a good while. To put this in perspective for those young ones out of the know, Save Ferris hasn’t toured or even released new music for over 15 years, with their last tour and most recent album release being fan backed. As soon as the band took their places on the stage the crowd went wild and kicked the already built monsoon of energy into overdrive. When Monique took the stage and filled the room with her classic vocals, everyone in Masquerade, and probably the surrounding area, turned an ear towards the stage at Hell. Monique’s stage presence is unrivaled. Her raw talent makes her a natural performer as she romps the stage egging on her adoring fans. The rest of the band comprising the new rendition of Save Ferris shined as well as they filled the room with guitar riffs, horn solos, and funky rhythms that could make statues tap a foot. When Save Ferris played tracks off their recently dropped album Checkered Past the entire crowd seemed to chime in. The bridge in their new track “Golden Silence” glistened with a slick saxophone solo by Alexander Mathias that filled the Masquerade with a jazzy-ska blend. The entire set was bumping up until the end where Save Ferris played an encore of “Come on Eileen”, their famous cover of the classic by Dexys Midnight Runners. The energy of the crowd continued until the very end of the last note, with even some wanting to hear more.

The night at Masquerade was lit. Both Burns Like Fire and Baby Baby are acts not to miss live as they put on killer shows, however Save Ferris was something special to see live due to the bands checkered past, coincidentally and justly the name of Save Ferris’s recently released album. Check out the tour dates for Save Ferris’s New Sound 2017 Tour here: http://saveferris.com

Live Review: Less Than Jake and Guests Pack Out the New Masquerade

Review by Daniel Karasek. Photos (at the end of the article) by Shaun Krisher

The night of February 24 was graced with the presence of The Attack, Bunny Gang, Pepper, and Less Than Jake at the Masquerade. This was my first show at the new Masquerade location. To be honest, it was my first adult adventure to Underground Atlanta as I haven’t been there since I was a kid over 10 years ago. On first impressions, the new location seems to be a great fit as the vibe of modern Underground Atlanta really blends well with the classic rock culture embedded in Masquerade. The stages are now split between three different rooms in the alley at Underground, much different from the traditional vertical stack where the stages got their name sake. I thought it would be jarring to not have the traditional Masquerade layout, but I was wrong. The open layout makes for a large yet cozy venue.

Now to discuss the show. To start the evening, Florida-based band The Attack rocked the stage with their unique sound that is true to the roots of punk rock. They really make their shows about their sound and not about their looks, which were also on point. The fast riffs of Brad Palkevich really got the crowd hyped while Tito Esquiaqui and Mikey Cortes held down the beat with their respective drums and bass. And we can’t forget the mad vocals of Charlie Bender blasting the world to get on his hype level. This band is a true punk band that any rocker can jam to.

Next on the set list for the night was The Bunny Gang, a rag tag group of dudes who jam out like no tomorrow. This was The Bunny Gang’s cherry pop for playing at Atlanta’s iconic Masquerade. Their self-proclaimed “Revolution Rocksteady” sound is truly a band not to miss when in town. It combines punk rock with reggae in a ska concoction that is smooth on the ears. Nathen Maxwell, the lead singer for The Bunny Gang, showed off his crisp chops as he rocked the stage. He has that rockstar persona with infectious energy that spreads like wildfire in a crowd. Backing him up were the killer keys of Levi Garrett and the hot horns of trombonist Keith Larsen as well as the rest of the motley crew. On asking for comment about the new Masquerade, Levi said “the venue had good sound” and Keith said “the venue was cool with the atmosphere”.

In the slot before the headliner was San Diego’s own Pepper, a feisty ska group very reminiscent of Sublime in their groovy sound. The band’s origin of Hawaii is obvious in their showmanship as they bring a little bit of the island culture to their show. The crowd lit up with noise as Pepper took the stage, and by the second song the walls of the Masquerade were even vibing to the music. The deep, gritty vocals of Kaleo Wassman really stood out to make the music shine. The vocals matched with the slick bass licks of Bret Bollinger and catchy beats of Yesod Williams made for one popping performance. When Kaleo and Bret broke into an acoustic duet of “Point And Shoot” the entirety of Masquerade joined in making for one hell of a singalong, in Heaven none the less. The band definitely lived up to the reputation built around their 20 year career.

As the headliner for the evening, Florida’s own Less Than Jake killed it. There was insane hype from the crowd from the moment they took the stage. To start the show, as Less Than Jake are known for their stage antics, confetti canons blasted the audience alongside the first notes that brought the audience into a roar of excitement. From note one, Less Than Jake showed why they have been kings of ska for nearly 25 years. Their second song ushered in a storm of crowd surfers that continued throughout the show. As the band continued into their set, the lead vocalist and guitarist Chris DeMakes remarked that he “never saw a better crowd” at Masquerade. The energy Chris and bassist Roger Lima put into each song was tenfold reflected by the crowd that night. They both definitely put the show in showmanship. Drummer Vinnie Fiorello kept the tunes in line with his highly danceable and contagious beats. Goldfinger and JR on trombone and tenor sax respectively added the pizzazz to the show that only horns can bring to the table, especially horns in such talented hands. The show these guys put on, riddled with the craziness and mischief necessary for a ska show, is a sight to behold. After a solid encore, Less Than Jake brought the night of great music to a close with more energy than they started their set with.

This great night of ska and rock had the Masquerade packed out. I’d recommend catching a show at the new Masquerade location, especially if any of these acts roll through again.

Photo Gallery – Less than Jake

Photo Gallery – Pepper

Photo Gallery – The Bunny Gang