|…Steve Jackson and I…it’s a duet!|
I don’t know where these booze cruises have been all my life, but I hate that I just finally started embarking on them this summer. It’s beer. It’s ska. It’s dancing. It’s amazing views of New York City from the East River as the sun sets. It’s great people. It’s a great show on a damn boat!
Let me start off by saying we just barely made the boat at all. Traffic into Manhattan from North Jersey is a nightmare on a Friday. Add in some construction around the Lincoln Tunnel, and we have a recipe for anxiety. A booze cruise is not like a regular show in that you can meander into the venue whenever you get there. You need to be there, on the boat, by a certain time or the boat leaves…and you are standing on the dock waving it goodbye. Last time I did this, I took the Holland and barely made it. This time I figured the Lincoln would be another option. We should have taken the advice of the drunk guys in the bar in Stanhope where I picked up my cohorts for the evening (Rob and Steve) and taken the damn ferry.
I figured we would have enough trouble catching one boat. Two boats…and we might never get home.
After several frustrating hours in traffic, discussions on everything from Michael Vick to what exactly is in all those bottles on the side of the road in Weehawken, we finally tossed the car in a garage, hopped in a cab, and made the boat with about 15 minutes to spare. My advice to you, fellow Jersians… take the ferry.
After the Slackers cruise, I was not sure what to expect. This was a slightly smaller boat. My experience growing up on a lake taught me that means we are going to feel the waves a little more. I learned after only a few minutes on the boat, still docked, that this was very true! We tipped back and forth quite a bit…all of us occasionally grabbing for railing, walls, and one another for support. No matter though. One of the many reasons I love my fellow ska folks is the attitude we all have for the show, the music, and one another. No pushing or shoving required…and a grab for stability is met with a smile and a laugh.
We were on our way shortly after eight. The Pietasters took the stage shortly after that. We had been expecting thunderstorms all day, as they had blown through earlier in the afternoon. The experts at weather.com had warned us they would be back, and the boat was prepped with pull down plastic walls on the upper deck where the band was set up…just in case. The rain never came. The heat was nice enough to stay. No one seemed to care at all. We were one on that boat. One mass of sweaty, dancing, singing, beer swigging ska kids, swaying with the wakes of the much bigger boats on the river.
I tried to take a picture at one point of several guys in the front of the deck, in front of the Pietasters, who were bracing themselves with one arm holding the ceiling, but the boat was not steady enough for me to get the shot clearly.
As is usually the case, the band was amazing. The Pietasters have been doing what they do for over two decades now. Touring and playing live shows for over 20 years is no small feat, and staying power is not a common thing among many of the bands that made a name in the third wave of ska that swept through the early 90’s. But The Pietasters…these guys have it. Their sound is diverse and fun. They have the energy, they have the fans, and they have the music that will bring us all out to any club, festival, boat, or venue that they are booked in until they just decide it’s not fun anymore. Judging by how much fun we had this past Friday, I don’t see that happening any time soon. And thank fucking goodness.
I managed to squeeze my way up to the front, behind my ever delightful friend Roy Radics (of NYC’s own also amazing Rudie Crew) as he was called to the stage for a few songs. I can’t even imagine how the guys in the band were able to play for us as long as they did, as well as they did, and as energetically as they did. It was HOT up there! Between the lights, the crowd, the plastic walls, and the heat outside…it was a sweaty mess. And I could have cared less. I took as many pictures as I could, between fits of dancing of course.
As soon as they started in with Movin On Up, the crowd was up and upon singer Steve Jackson to scream along…”Cause’ I’m bigger than you and I’m badder than you!…” I was right up there with them. The girl next to me and I taking turns dancing and screaming. There was a girl in a pretty white dress and saddle shoes who’s dancing pretty much beat the ever loving hell out of me. It seem to be my luck that at every ska show I attend, there is always a girl dancing with me in the front who’s enthusiasm equates to flailing arms and stomping feet…usually my feet. I still have bruises from the Hub City Stompers show last weekend…
…and it doesn’t bother me in the least. We usually meet up again somewhere around the ladies room or the bar, and we laugh.
My favorite Pietasters song is and will probably always be Girl Take It Easy…and once that was going, forget it. I was staying. I danced myself silly, had a great time screaming the words right back at Steve, and by the time I wandered back to the back of the boat and the night air, I was sweating like a whore in church.
It’s nothing a little cold beer doesn’t cure. I stood on the back of the boat with Mr. Radics and my friend Rob, enjoyed the river breeze and the evening scenery as we drifted back to the docks. I was sad when it was time to get off the boat. But you know it’s not over…
Thank you to the Pietasters for an amazing show. See you in DC (or Philly?) for Skalapalooza!
Black and White photography by James Walker