with the Adjusters and Pork Pie Tribe
State Theater, St Petersburg, FL • 12.19.97
I was truly excited about the prospect of seeing the Articles again. The jazz-influenced instrumental ska band from Detroit Rock City made quite a good impression their last time through the area. This time, they’d have the added benefit of their alto sax player Mike Rehfus, who’d had to miss the Tampa stop on the last tour through due to a family emergency. Still, it took a band that I’d heard very little about at all to elevate the night to truly magical status, as Chicago’s Adjusters very nearly stole the Articles’ glory.
The evening started off with yet another solid set from Sarasota’s pride and joy, Pork Pie Tribe. Regular readers of Ink Nineteen are by now well-aware of this band’s strong presence on the central Florida scene; generally, they open at least one big show a month, thus garnering a lot of coverage. Suffice to say that while their set was up to their usual standard (that is to say, outstanding), it did feature one large disappointment. On the set closer, “I Wanna Dance,” a large crowd of kids decided that the best thing they could do would be to start a pit. They proceeded to tromp all over the audience, trampling at least one patron and nearly breaking her glasses. Keep in mind that Pork Pie Tribe is a traditionally-influenced band with Celtic roots, and you’ll understand why this behavior was completely inappropriate. Basically, school had just let out for winter break, and mommy and daddy weren’t around. Next time, find a hardcore or metal show, kiddies.
Before the Adjusters took the stage, I’d noticed their T-shirts at the merchandise booth, which read, in part, “Soul Power’s gonna get ya!” This proved to be no idle boast when the band started to play. The crowd was about as familiar with them as I was, but that proved no hindrance to the Adjusters, as they made the stage their own. Frontman Daraka Kenric works the stage like an evangelist at a Baptist revival, coming across as a mix of James Brown and Al Green, with maybe just a shade of Terrence Trent D’Arby in his voice. This presence lends itself well to the political (Democratic Socialist) message the band espouses; Kenric preaches to the crowd without being dull, and manages to make the audience enjoy the message whether they agree with it or not. Few other bands could get a crowd to clap and dance to a song called “This Sound Kills Fascists”; the approach certainly works better than the Rage Against the Machine school of yelling at people. The band is well-schooled in good, old-fashioned Chicago soul, and uses it as a framework for ska (the sublime “Tailor” being a particular highlight) and reggae tunes along with their straight-ahead soul numbers. By the time they closed their set with the signature “Soul Power,” the entire audience was clapping, dancing, and singing along (as were most of the other two bands, brought up on the stage)! I could rave for hours about how each band member is a master of their instrument, about the beautiful vocals of Joan Axthelm, and far, far more. Suffice to say that a simple review does not do the Adjusters justice, and you are forewarned to clear your schedule next time they come to your town.
I feared for the Articles. The Adjusters were so good, I didn’t know if they’d be able to maintain the energy level. Thankfully, this wasn’t even an issue; the Articles built on the fervor of the Adjusters’ set, driving the crowd to even greater heights of ecstasy. From the moment they opened with the title track from their Romanov’s Bones seven-inch, I knew that they’d picked up the baton and run with it. Surprisingly, the Articles’ jazzy style complemented the Adjusters’ soul well, and certainly the band’s members are every bit as much the masters of their instruments. As proof, one need look no further than the spectacular cover of the Skatalites’ “Man in the Streets;” certainly, no other band could pull this song off without a trombone! Mike Rehfus proved to be an entertaining frontman for the band, keeping the crowd in good humor between songs in a set that was about equally divided between covers and the band’s own jazz-ska originals.
The Adjusters (and a few stray MagaDog members) joined the Articles for the one-two punch of Thelonius Monk’s “Blue Monk” and the Skatalites’ “Phoenix City” to close the show. The crowd cheered and danced until the end, exhausted though they were. Bands as good as these are few and far between, and to have the opportunity to see two in one night, and to see them jam together, is all too rare a treat.