It was a rainy Sunday night in downtown San Diego, with the smell of fresh, wet pavement in the cold air. A short line gathered outside the House of Blues as fans made their way through security for tonight’s show featuring The Slackers, Big D and the Kids Table, and Bite Me Bambi.
HOUSE of BLUES
San Diego, California
December 11, 2022
Fans that showed up early got to hang out by the merchandise table and chat with Tahlena Chikami from Bite Me Bambi, whose charisma and politeness was a nice bit of fresh sunshine. While talking with her, I learned that Bite Me Bambi has weekly Twitch streams, so make sure you follow them for that. I was also informed that Bite Me Bambi had two touring musicians tonight, which meant they would not be playing any Christmas songs for the holiday show, but no one seemed to mind.
There was a small crowd, perhaps because when it rains in San Diego, the locals are afraid to venture out. But this made for a more intimate show and there was not a bad seat in the house. Inside, two of the most adorable little kids – a brother and sister – were running around the venue, playing tag and hide-and-seek, while their parents waited patiently for the show to start.
We did not have to wait long and it was time to get those ska feet moving as Bite me Bambi kicked off the show. The happy toe-tapping song “Like That” started the party, while the drums and horns went crazy and lights turned up! The band went straight into their crowd-pleasing Offspring cover, “Want You Bad.”
In the midst of their set, Bite Me Bambi played “Strippers on Sunday,” as Tbone Willy and Chikami fed off each other’s energy while dancing and having a good time. Ending their 30-minute set with “Hot Lava” and a cover of The Specials’ “Gangsters,” the tone for the rest of the evening was set.
Next up was Boston’s favorite punk-ska band, Big D and the Kids Table. With music playing in the background as the band’s introduction walk-in sound, these renegades erupted into their song “Dead Bottle!” Guided by the singer David McWane, who was dressed in a peace symbol t-shirt and a newsboy cap, the band played with high energy as they continued into the song “Steady Riot.”
What could be better than one saxophone player? How about two saxophone players with a plethora of punk rock energy! Ryan O’Connor and Jonathan Degen worked the audience and encouraged crowd participation as they kept up with their horns. With his huge hand gestures and crazy onstage antics, McWane’s face morphed into a thousand different dramatic expressions. Big D and the Kids Table closed their one-hour set with “Little Bitch,” “Noise Complaint,” and “LAX” which got a fun little ska pit going.
Our guest of honor for the evening was next… the ska band from Manhattan, The Slackers. The bandmates did a silent sound check onstage under the dim lights before disappearing, then came back in time for their grand entrance! The Slackers led off with the classic hit “Fried Chicken” as the room roared into a cheer.
With no set design and no a banner hanging, The Slackers proved to us that nothing extra is needed when it comes to playing good music. Known for their sound of rocksteady, reggae, and soul, seeing them live, you can hear other influences; big band in the more complex solos, doo-wop in vocal harmonies, and chatty choruses that bring you back to another musical era.
Halfway through their set, vocalist and keyboardist Vic Ruggiero took on the guitar for an acoustic break as hometown saxophonist Dave Hillyard accompanied him. With smiles on everyone’s face, the whole band went off script and joined for a long, improved jam session. The Slackers closed the night with fan favorites “What Went Wrong,” “Keep Him Away,” and “Please Decide.”
With a short break, the entourage came back out for an encore by first extracting a song request from the audience which was “Nobody’s Listening.” With the band’s encouragement – and the awesome stage presence led by vocalist and trombonist Glen Pine – the entire venue sang at the top of their lungs to “Wasted Days,” showing that even if the rain created a smaller crowd, the brave ones that ventured out made it sound like a full house.
Already out of time and over their scheduled House of Blues curfew, The Slackers ended the two-hour set with “Have the Time.”
The Slackers did not reflect their “slacker” name: They stuck around after the show, taking pictures and signing vinyl records until the very last admirer was gone. It was a privilege seeing them live and the fans certainly had something to be thankful for.