The Stingers, with Sound Patrol, 2 1/2 White Guys, and Secret Agent 8
Fri April 18 2003 @ Fat Cat’s, Houston
Please read the original Stingers w/Sound Patrol review from October 2002 before reading this.
When I wrote the review of last Octobers Stingers/Sound Patrol show at the FabSat, I didn’t receive too many comments (save for a few “Fuck You’s” on the guestbook). That was fine by me; I had an opinion, I published it, and it became part of the public record… goal achieved. In fact, if you search Google for Sound Patrol, the October show review is listed second in the search results. After seeing Sound Patrol play Friday night at FatCats, it’s my duty to make sure that this new review gets listed first… I owe it to the band.
Secret Agent 8 were already a few songs into their set when I walked through the door, but I don’t think that will keep me from correctly assessing their performance. Frankly, it amazes me how little they’ve changed over the years they’ve been playing… consistency is their strong point, and they are surely the Iron Men of the Houston ska scene. My opinion of them has been fairly consistent as well; they’re talented purveyors of kinda bland (sorry guys!) up-tempo 3rd wave ska. The only time I take real notice of what they’re doing is when they do the thing they seem to dislike the most: slow down the tempo. The band is capable of great things when they slip into reggae mode, and I really wish they’d do it more often. Will, their vocalist, is the person on stage who benefits most when they bring it down a few notches… the tense warble is eliminated from his delivery and a smoother, more pleasing tone is revealed.
I had never seen or heard 2 1/2 White Guys before, but I did enjoy them on the whole. They were all excellent musicians and their material rode the mid-tempo/neo-trad line straight though their performance. I can’t say that I’d ever go out of my way to see them again, however… simply put, they failed to rock. In 2003 you’d think that most ska bands would be willing to take some chances in their songs, but such was not the case with 2 1/2 White Guys… their performance was just like watching any other talented touring ska band I’d seen 5 or 6 years ago, and it failed to make a real impression.
Sound Patrol was the reason I left the house this night. I don’t know if it came across in the review I wrote in October ’02, but I was heartbroken when they didn’t live up to my hopes and expectations. I’m thankful that my curiosity compelled me to check them out a second time, because Sound Patrol were easily the stars of the show. With the addition of a dancing, gyrating, female backup singer (and the elimination of the bullshit fake-Rasta posing), the band has transformed themselves into an odd, pleasing combination of Puma Jones-era Black Uhuru crossed with a Wyclef Jean/Lauren Hill-styled urban reggae review. The backing band (which is an awful thing to call them, since they’re so important) has picked up the tempo of the songs and dropped most of the dub elements from their arrangements; naturally, this upsets me… the reason I sought out Sound Patrol in the first place was for pure dub’ing satisfaction, but I can accept the trade-offs involved when a band coalesces into a well-presented whole. As I said at the top of this review, I owe it to the band to make sure my earlier opinion doesn’t negatively influence somebody away from investing time with Sound Patrol… they have gone from a band I would avoid to a band that I endorse.
The Stingers… perhaps I shouldn’t even try to make a fresh statement about this band. If you want to know how I feel about these guys and their material, please refer to the October review, because my opinion has not changed one inch since then. The only thing I’ll add is to mention an instant message I got one evening from somebody who had read the October review… he said, “thanks, Bill. you make me feel like it’s okay not to like The Slackers.” Buddy, it’s perfectly fine.