As it turns out, third time’s a charm for East Brunswick natives Streetlight Manifesto. June 24 was my third time seeing the third-wave ska band perform at the venue they made me fall in love with: The Trocadero – and I must say that I was very, very impressed with both what I saw and heard. For one, Streetlight actually knew the words of their songs, and also managed to play an entire set; and secondly, they sounded amazing. It was easily the best of Streetlight’s concerts I’ve been to thus far.
After a broken amp, missing saxophonist, incomplete set and a 45-minute delay at the last Streetlight concert I went to, I had very low expectations this time around, and I was quite surprised when they not only came out on time, but sounded the best I’ve heard them.
As soon as the band got on stage and set up – which, admittedly, given the sheer number of members they have (seven give or take the performance), did take longer then usual – Streetlight immediately got off on a bang with “The Receiving End of it All,” one of their quickest and most upbeat songs. This was followed with “Failing, Flailing,” a concert favorite for years now. The song was their way of saying, “Hey Philadelphia, we missed you, but we’re back!” “Failing, Flailing,” along with “A Better Place A Better Time” are songs that, time after time, lead singer Tom Kalnoky purposely changes the tempo to so he can throw off fans singing along. After going to enough of their concerts, you pick up on it, and it becomes an inside joke between Kalnoky and the old-heads (long time fans). The song achieved Kalnoky’s desired effect, making the crowd go wild. Streetlight’s first two songs alone set the pace for what a high quality concert it was going to be.
A staple of seeing Streetlight live is their famous merging of “Point-Counterpoint,” the song that a majority of fans claim is the song that introduced them to Streetlight Manifesto, and “Keasby Nights,” originally from an album of the same name by Kalnoky’s first big band, Catch 22. The songs share the theme of a man prophesying his demise in “Keasby Nights,” and reflecting on and counting his final minutes as he dies from a shot to the lungs in “Point-Counterpoint.” This merging is played only live, never recorded together by the band.
What was surprising was just how many Catch 22 songs Streetlight played. Kalnoky left Catch 22 under what weren’t the best circumstances to form Streetlight. There has been a good deal of tension between the two bands, with Catch playing songs that Kalnoky considered to be his without him, and Streetlight re-recording their own (and, in my opinion, superior) version of the “Keasby Nights” album. The “Keasby” set list included “9mm and a 3-Piece Suit,” “1234 1234″ and “Sick and Sad.”
The concert was a flurry of sweat, bodies, water bottles, and lots and lots of skanking (the dancing, not job on the corner of City Hall past dark). Although the front of the crowd was moshing and crowd surfing, the entire back half of the Troc had opened up into a skanking circle, a common and almost mandatory occurrence at any ska concert.
As expected, Streetlight played a number of cover songs off their side project, “99 Songs of the Revolution.” The project has eight albums planned, two by each of the four bands attached. The only two bands announced as yet, however, are Streetlight Manifesto, who took the first volume, and their acoustic counterpart, Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution. 99SotR is comprised entirely of cover songs.
Prior to playing “Punk Rock Girl,” Kalnoky warned the crowd, “I’ve been desperately trying to learn this song since I was 16. I had the lyrics written on my arm, so don’t hate me if I [screw] up.” He played the song great, and more or less knew all the lyrics – at least, as much as was expected with him. Kalnoky is famous for forgetting his own lyrics, which the crowd constantly reminds him, singing along when help is needed. He joked, “I rely on the rest of the band for [the lyrics].”
After leaving stage, the band returned for an encore with an acoustic set comprising of “Linoleum,” a NOFX cover from 99SotR and “Sick & Sad.”
Going in with a hard-to-impress mindset after such a letdown the last time I saw them live, my expectations were more then exceeded with the most fun I’ve had at a Streetlight show yet.