Photos & Review by: Tommy Dingus
Tonight was a test of how many artists and instruments the stage at the Black Cat could hold. The Shifters from right here in D.C., brought 10. That’s enough to field a baseball team, WITH a designated hitter. They lit into their set with the dapper Scotty Muroski at the helm. He crooned through “Dance With You,” and “Let’s Dance,” if that tells you what kind of party this was. He then counteracted the frenzy with a cover of The Wailers “Stop That Train.” The Shifters brand of calypso rocksteady ska detoured when the keyboardist switched into organ mode. Scotty picked up a tambourine and what happened next I can only describe as a zydeco revival.
Caz & The Day Laborers gave the structure of the stage a break with their small by comparison five-piece outfit. Led by frontwoman Caz Gardiner, who moves like a spunky china doll, they slowed things down seemingly to give the complex dancing crowd a break, too. Caz and guitarist Jorge congealed into some of the smoothest doo-wop melodies possible, smiling all the while.
It was time to pack the stage again, this time with ten members of D.C.’s The Pietasters, named for a British slang term for a portly gentleman. Tonight, they rocked in honor of late bassist Todd Eckhardt, performing only songs he had a hand in writing. Todd’s father was even on hand to preface the set and thank the fans for their support of the scholarship named for his son at the Duke Ellington School for the Arts, for which this show was a benefit.
The self-proclaimed “Bad Boys of Ska” then proceeded to de-roof the venue unapologetically. Quirky frontman Stephen Jackson peaked and valleyed with equal amounts of pit-rocking ska and soulful love songs. When he was joined center-stage by the reggae voice of the group, things quickly escalated, once to the point of a wrestling match. Stephen is something to behold, regardless of who else is in the vicinity. His wide-eyed, robotic charges around the stage are reminiscent of a child that thinks if he stands behind the mic stand, you can’t see him.
He got his workout in tonight by harassing the other members of the band from the horn section to his left, to the guitarists on his right. He remained unflappable even in light of the raucous front row of the audience commandeering his microphone and stand. He resigned himself to the stage right guitarists mic and let the crowd be his backup singers on the lead mic for the duration of the song. Those are The Pietasters that D.C. loves, and have been watching perform for over 20 years.