Bim Skala Bim – with Mephiskapheles, Free Lunch at The Rat – Review

Bim Skala Bim

with Mephiskapheles, Free Lunch at The Rat
by Dude

Once again, snowstorms make an evening out a challenge. Fans who did brave the cold and snow were treated to a show that melted the snow off the Doc Martens before you were down the stairs. Free Lunch, a power trio who describe their music as “funky-crunchy-soul,” played some great originals. It’s not easy opening a ska show, especially if you have no clear musical connection to ska. Free Lunch easily cleared that hurdle and met no resistance from the Rudies hungry for ska, save for one Rude girl who got hit in the face with a condom thrown by the band. She thought she’d won a free CD (sorry, it wasn’t used).

It had been a hard week on Mephiskapheles: The drummer’s hardware was stolen two days prior (they used Free Lunch’s kit) and their bassist was unable to make the show (Jack Sherman of Steady Earnest got the call, easily aced the test, and will now be touring the West Coast with them, due to his impressive display). The nine-hour drive, in the snow, to get to Boston made tonight’s show an adventure for the band. Nevertheless, Mephiskapheles immediately brought the dance floor to life with songs from their debut CD, God Bless Satan (Moon). Highlights included the fan-pleasing “Doomsday” (as seen on MTV). This set enjoyed more subtlety and musical depth than their September show which was a more in-your-face, fast, loud show. Ranging from the rock-steady beats of “Dance Me Not” and “Hard Times,” to the more prominent ska-core elements of “Rank and File” and “Two Trains,” Mephiskepheles commandeered the crowd. The Nubian Nightmare surfed the crowed, sharing vocal duties with enthusiastic fans. ‘Meph earned an encore, which is tough as an opening band. I can’t wait for them to come back and headline.

Bim Skala Bim offered a compelling set from their 11-year, six-album history and unveiled five new songs which blended easily into a catalog of set classics. The first new song of the night, “Johnny O’Reilly,” is a fast-paced, heavy-edged, ska-corish song with killer keyboard. The beauty of the arrangement is that it segues into a slow reggae-propelled ballad called “Same Mistake,” illustrating the band’s versatility in ska/reggae/world beat/calypso. Later in the set, “Rocket Man,” a poppier new song, was followed by “Pete Needs A Friend,” a rocking tune that could be the hit from Bim’s next album. The final new song, “Legalization,” an old style pseudo-instrumental, will be featured on the upcoming CD Joint Ventures In Ska, a compilation of ska songs about the magic and beauty of hemp.

Back to the old material. The horn-driven “Simple Song” found Vinny (lavish trombone) and John (keyboard/part-time sax) complementing, as well as challenging each other with their horn progressions. Lead singer Shanty Dan’s effective vocals gained depth with the help of Jim (guitar) and Vinny’s backing vocals. Rick (percussion) and Jim A (drums) combine to strengthen the reggae and calypso undertones. Jim J. (guitar) fired the licks in their treatment of Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage” and did justice on lead vocals for “Start Again.” A surprise guest appearance by former Bim sax player Chuck on the encore of “People In The World” and “Skeleton” ended a great shot-filled party (Happy Birthday Chuck).