I have seen the Gadjits live twice. Once was in November of 1999 at a place called Klub Phenomenon, located in Freeport, IL [this place is probably most well known for having the last Blue Meanies show ever]. Who was I seeing that night? None other than Fenix*TX [don't make fun of me]. The Gadjits were added at the last minute to the bill, and were barely even mentioned on the flier [a local band actually got billed higher on the flier than they did]. All I knew about the band at the time was they were a ska band on Hellcat Records. I got to the show right before they went on, and stood among the crowd, relishing their ska-rock sound [and their hot organ player]. Having never heard them before, I tried to listen to every chorus and sing along as quickly as possible, since the singer was staring right at me it seemed [he mentioned later during the show that he liked my "Got Jazz?" shirt I had on]. They put on a great show, and I immediately chugged over to the merch table to see what I could buy.
After picking up a bitchin’ work shirt, some free stickers, and complimenting their bass player on a great show, I went back and watched Fenix*TX. I can’t really remember anything about their show, as my mind was still fixated on the Gadjits sweet, sweet ska sound. In the coming weeks, I quickly got their 2 CDs that were out at the time, but neither one seemed to get a lot of spins in my CD player. While they contained all the songs that the band played that night, missing was the garage-like intensity and, well, the rock. A sigh was uttered, and I moved on.
This brings us to the second time I have seen the Gadjits, which was November of 2001. Within that two-year period, I had sort of kept tabs on the band – I knew they existed and still toured and such, but I hadn’t paid much attention to them. Then I got wind that they had dropped their ska sound and had started to go with a more rock and roll/blues sound. This intrigued me. I finally got to see them again at the Fireside Bowl with the Stereo [you can read a review of that concert here if you’d like]. The Gadjits’ new sound, coupled with an extra guitarist and a new organ player, totally blew my mind. While I had come to watch the Stereo, again I came away with Gadjits on the brain.
“Today Is My Day” is probably the album the Gadjits have always wanted to make. I have a feeling that even in their ska years, the band knew they were a rock and roll band; this album just validates all their work. The band recorded the entire album in their home in Leawood, Kansas, giving it a very rough-around-the-edges feel. The album opens with “We Were Right,” a slow jam, until the gospel-like refrain kicks in for the last 45 seconds. You can just feel the tambourines being shaken and the hands flying in the air. It’s one hell of an opener, and it sets the tone for the rest of the album. “Someday Driver” plows ahead as a straightforward rocker with an incredibly solid and tight rhythm section. This is due largely in part to drummer Adam, bassist Zach, and guitarist/singer Brandon are all brothers. The rock continues in “One Stones Throw From A Riot,” a blues/rock hybrid with a throwback to the musical “Grease,” of all things in the prechorus. The group’s country roots come out in “This Waffle House Is Not A Home,” a ballad if I ever heard one. “All The Way” is a fast paced, bass-and-organ driven song with a whole lot of “Hey!” and “C’mon!” thrown in for good measure. “Nothing Exciting” has a similar feel to “One Stones…” with a cool breakdown in the middle, followed by a classic bluesy guitar solo. “Talkin’ Bout My Demographic” is a 5 minute, catchy as all hell rock and roll tune with a sendoff to the Who in the last minute or so [as if you didn’t see that coming]. I just love the way the bass slides octaves in the song and the places where a harmonica wails over the rest of the band. This reminds me of some of the dirtier, unpolished moments of a Blues Traveler CD. It jams. I could continue to rave about the rest of the tracks on this album, but I’m getting the feeling you get the picture.
The album isn’t perfect, by any means. The recording quality, while at times is a huge plus because it adds to the dirty rock feel of the album, also can get annoying sometimes when the vocals or guitars get lost in the mix. The pitfalls of home recording, I guess. While the band does benefit from the addition of a second guitar [Mike Alexander, formerly of the Revolvers], they did lose their organ player, Hilary, after the album was recorded. This makes for some live inconsistencies due to the lack of female vocals on certain songs, since her harmonies are fairly active on the album’s 14 tracks. To the band’s credit, it doesn’t hold the band back live, though.
“Today Is My Day” is a true rock and roll record, the type that so many bands [i.e. the Strokes, the White Stripes, etc.] continually strive for, but can’t quite get there. There is no gimmick about the Gadjits, there is no “selling point” to be found. All they are is one of the best damn rock and roll bands in the world right now. They dare you to prove them wrong.
[NOTE: both of these MP3s below are taken from the band's earlier EP, Yes I Are, but are essentially the same songs as on the new album, just not as polished.]
This Wafflehouse Is Not A Home
All The Way