The Pietasters perform at 9:30 Club on Dec. 29, 2022. (Photo by Mickey McCarter)
Let’s first and foremost acknowledge that there was a lot of warmth for the late Terry Hall at the most recent appearance by The Pietasters at 9:30 Club. The English singer-songwriter, famed for his contributions to The Specials and other rock and ska acts, passed away not long before the show date. DJ Selah, who spun tunes between sets, called out a moment of silence for Mr. Hall among other shoutouts, and The Pietasters themselves closed their set with a cover of “Enjoy Yourself” by The Specials in tribute.
“We’re going to raise his spirit,” proclaimed frontman Steve Jackson before launching into the song. For the number, The Pietasters were joined by openers Eastern Standard Time, and a raucous party ensued.
The Pietasters also added several other covers to their jumping and sprawling set at 9:30 Club on Dec. 29. They were joined by their New York City friend Coolie Ranx, former frontman of The Toasters and vocalist for The Pilfers. Toward the end of the main set, Coolie took lead vocals on “Dancin'” by The Toasters and “Easy Man” by the Pilfers.
The first cover of the night was actually “Nite Owl,” originally by Tony Allen and The Champs (but perhaps more famously covered by the Bad Habits in the ’70), recorded by The Pietasters for their debut self-titled album in 1993. In the middle of their set, The Pietasters added a cover of “It’s the Same Old Song” by the Four Tops — a number they first recorded for their 1995 sophomore record, Oolooloo.
Of course, The Pietasters would never be mistaken for a covers-only band, and they performed many great originals. Oolooloo dominated the show, as The Pietasters lifted about a third of their set from the album. Steve and company opened with the great “Maggie Mae” and played perennial favorite “Tell You Why” before Coolie joined them on vocals late in the set.
Stream Ooolooloo by The Pietasters on Spotify:
The smashing “Maggie Mae” was a wonderful start to the show, and it gave Steve the opportunity to start the party with the Celtic-tinged number: “Maggie Mae bring us another beer we need another beer/ Take away our troubles, dear Maggie Mae!” It sparked the crowd to life *right away,* and the room was quickly jumping.
With plenty of swagger, Steve cut a fine frontman as ever. More fatherly than brassy these days, he exuded an aura of control over his large band and the impromptu chorus of the swarming audience. He circled the stage to spend time with all the players upon it — a total of eight other men at most times. But I was most struck by his chemistry with bassist Dave Vermillion and guitarist Joe Ross. The gents occasionally easily formed a tight triad at the front of stage left a few times, and it was fun to get swept away in their infectious energy.
And Steve demonstrated plenty of vocal character throughout the show, swinging from the Celt punk of Maggie Mae” to the straight reggae of new song “Hypnotize,” which the band performed to cap the first quarter of the show. Well, Steve is just cool.
The Pietasters were joined by DC’s own Eastern Standard Time and Connecticut’s Spring Heeled Jack. This blogger missed the set by Spring Heeled Jack, but Eastern Standard Time proved as bright and charming as ever. Eastern Standard Time delighted the audience with 13 songs to open the concert, led by their dapper frontman I-Peace Unikue.
Mr. Unikue was stylish in his presentation and soothing and reassuring in his voice, which seemed capable of instantly transporting us to the Caribbean. Eastern Standard Time drew at least three songs, including the title track, from their most recent album Time for Change, released by Jump Up Records in 2019.
Watch Eastern Standard Time perform “Time for Change” live in Germany on YouTube:
Eastern Standard Time were well worth watching on their own, and I hear that they have a new album to be released in the near future. Keep your ears peeled for it, and catch the gents at their next show!
RIP Terry Hall, but rest assured that ska lives in the DMV with the likes of The Pietasters, a little more punk, and Eastern Standard Time, a bit more jazz.
Here are some photos of Eastern Standard Time performing at 9:30 Club on Dec. 29.
And here are some photos of The Pietasters performing at 9:30 Club on Dec. 29, 2022.