Music Park: The Fuss @ Wonderland Ballroom — 1/21/16

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The Fuss, “In Anacostia” (Photo courtesy The Fuss)

Before the snow hit DC on Thursday night, people were in the mood to go out. Drifting from nightspot to nightspot, I could already feel the restlessness among the crowds anticipating they would soon be snowed in.

There was no snow to be found as of yet, however, and a sizeable group formed at the Wonderland Ballroom for a night of ska and reggae presented by BlueBeat DC, which produces a show every third Thursday of the month at Wonderland. The first band up last week was The Fuss, a DC collective of eight musicians who satisfied the crowd’s desire to dance the night away.

The Fuss opened with their song “Just for Show,” a laidback, jazzy and funky tune that really captures the band’s sound. To be clear, that sound is textbook rocksteady, a slower yet still dance-driven sibling of ska. The song is an ideal set opener as its tone and lyrics truly invite the listener to come into the show. In performance, The Fuss are quite fluid, orchestrating smart use of its horns, strings, and percussion. Vocalist Andi Leo has a big voice that pairs well with the big instruments.

A little later, The Fuss play “Make It Right,” another pleasant number that is big on beats but also happy to take its time to unfold. Andi’s voice again sets the pace. At the risk of sounding a bit corny, her singing is like honey — vocally sweet and golden.

You can watch a bit of a show by The Fuss performing a cover of “I Won’t Let You Go” and their own song “As Real” at the Black Cat on May 29, 2015 on YouTube:

The Fuss aren’t afraid to call out their influences, such as with the cover above, “I Won’t Let You Go,” originally recorded by the Jamaican vocal duo The Blues Busters in 1964. Now, a perennial ska/reggae favorite, the song really serves as a quintessential ska staple. The Fuss’ version actually seems a touch faster than the classic recording.

The Fuss also have recorded a cover of Phyllis Dillon’s “Don’t Stay Away,” a well-regarded Jamaican rocksteady classic. For my money, The Fuss do the song proud. On this and other selections, the horns of The Fuss really come forward with Tony Aimone on trombone, Adam Grise on trumpet, and Megan Nortrup on saxophone.

In concert, trombonist Tony gets a special chance to shine on a cover song from another band that Andi Leo helped to write. I don’t have that band’s name handy, but the song apparently called “Dangerous Love,” is a highlight of the live show. Thematically, it’s also an opportunity for The Fuss to concern themselves with traditional rocksteady themes of lost love or difficult relationships. The band generally doesn’t concern itself too much with being lovelorn; they would rather put their soul-felt musings into moving forward, or better yet, having a good time.

Check out an EP by The Fuss, “In Anacostia,” on Bandcamp:

The Fuss do not currently have any upcoming shows scheduled. However, I am told they have been recording recently, so they will surely announce some dates soon! See what The Fuss is all about the next time they perform, and you’ll certainly appreciate how a fresh band can hold down a classic sound.

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