Last Saturday I occupied a space in the Starland Ballroom as wide as my own body and no larger. I stood ass to ass with some of the grimiest, rancid stinking concert goers I’ve ever had the displeasure of being forced to smell. Wall to wall with bodies, the club’s thermometer read “molten,” and I drank it in, because New Jersey’s fourth favorite fixation (behind Bruce and the gang, Pork roll, and fist pumping) Streetlight Manifesto was in Sayreville.
It was the only time Streetlight would dock in the Garden State on the band’s Ship of Fools Tour, supported by the Ska/Punk four-piece The Supervillains, former front man of MU330 turned nerd rocking, solo act, Dan Potthast, and Philadelphia pop punks The Wonder Years.
This show was, in the words of Joe Biden, “A big f@#$%^g deal,” for Streetlight Manifesto. The last time the band played Starland Ballroom its long time trombone savant, Mike Soprano, said goodbye for other business ventures, marking the Ska/Punk collective’s biggest lineup change since trumpeteer Jamie Egan departed in 2005.
After six years at the helm the torch was passed to 24-year old bone buzzing prodigy Nadav Nirneberg. Nirenberg, a band leader and session player for Wyclef Jean, has made a name for himself on the New York club circuit for his versatility and brass warping solos.
Although Nirenberg is a rare talent, performing for Streetlight Manifesto’s Jersey diehards is a far cry from his Jazz Club exhibitions. He traded in finger snapping for fist thrusting, applause for crowd surfing, and swing dancers for mosh pitting punks. Nirenberg appeared to be affected prior to the show, frantically pacing around the stage during setup, sweat dripping from every gland. He perspired more than the band’s latest, husky, trumpet ace Matt “Squealer Dealer” Stewart. And Stewart needs his towel shoved through the ringer after every song.
Stewart spoke highly of Nirenberg after the show.
“He’s working out great for us,” said Stewart. “He’s unbelievably talented, the sickest, nastiest trombone player I’ve ever seen. And he’s only 24, he’s mad younger than all of us. He’s going to be great for a long time.”
Eventually Nireneberg settled and picked up where Soprano left off with flawless trombone play. The best compliment I can pay this ska prodigy, or Skadigy, is that I forgot Soprano had left the band.
Nirenberg, as did the other six members of the band, showcased his noted soloing skills on the extended jam session known as “A Call To Arms,” a musical piece written by front-man Tomas Kalnoky’s side project Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution (BOTAR).
A few years ago Kalnoky announced to a Starland Ballroom audience that the band would filtering songs off Streetlight’s debut album, Everything Goes Numb, out of the rotation, and for the most part that was the case for the last number of years (save for the band’s 2009 Jersey performance where it played every song from both of its original studio albums Everything Goes Numb and Somewhere In The Between).
In fact, since Streetlight just put out 99 Songs of Revolution Vol. 1, a album of covers, the fear was that the entire show would other people’s music. However, on this night, we would be treated to such classics as “Failing, Flailing,” “A Better Place A Better Time,” “If and When We Rise Again,” “A moment of Silence,” and “A Moment of Violence,” as well the mainstays “Here’s To Life,” and Streetlight’s closing number “Big Sleep.”
And oddly enough, the band didn’t start the show with its “unity” song “We Will Fall Together,” off its 2007 LP Somewhere In The Between (although the song was played), but chose another track off that record, “The Receiving End of it All,” as the opening salvo.
Streetlight even pulled out some oldies from the 1998 classic Keasby Nights like “9mm and a Three Piece Suit,” an acoustic version of “Sick and Sad,” and the album’s closer “12341234.”
As for cover songs there were two: an acoustic version of NOFX’s “Linoleum” and super charged “Punk Rock Girl” out of The Dead Milk Men’s catalogue.
You can check out the rest of the setlist here:(http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/streetlight-manifesto/2010/starland-ballroom-sayreville-nj-6bd40e7a.html)
Jim Conti, Streetlight’s saxophonist, told me the band wouldn’t be back in Jersey until late next year. If you missed this show you can catch the band in NYC at Highline Ballroom on July 30th and August 1st.