Streetlight Manifesto / Chris Farren - Live in Orlando (Cover Artwork)

Streetlight Manifesto / Chris Farren

Live in Orlando (2019)

live show

Every once in a while, a band manages to garner a super dedicated, cult following (with Ween, They Might Be Giants and The Mountain Goats as some obvious examples) Now that I’ve seen them a handful of times, I’d like to say Streetlight Manifesto has a fanbase just as rabid as any of those acts. Perhaps it’s because they’ve always taken themselves more seriously than your average ska band (although the limited modern playing field makes that an easy advantage.) Or perhaps it’s as simple as their rigorous touring schedule giving fans plenty of opportunities to go wild for their favorite songs. Regardless of reasoning, it’s always a great time seeing them, and I was excited for their show in Orlando last Friday.

Both Streetlight and the House of Blues were tight-lipped about who the opening act would be. It was kept that way until the lights finally dimmed – and Chris Farren came on stage. Being a fan of both his solo work and Antarctigo Vespucci (his project with Jeff Rosenstock,) this was a welcome surprise. Farren’s set consisted solely of material from his only full-length Can’t Die, as well as the one-off singles he’s released since then. Despite being a one-man band, Farren was able to captivate the crowd with intricate lights, projected visuals and sound effects. Although most people seemed unfamiliar with him, there was a handful of people who sung and danced along.

The highlight of his set came in his penultimate song, in which Farren sheathed his guitar to walk amongst the audience. He zigzagged from place to place while singing, eventually falling to the floor and rolling around for the climax of the song. The crowd was ecstatic, full of laughter and flashes from smartphone cameras. Humor is a pretty big staple of Farren’s on-stage banter and visuals, and definitely won him over for the night.

After an intermission for soundcheck, Streetlight finally hit the stage and wasted no time jumping into “With Any Sort of Certainty.” Just like that, the waves of a push-pit started to ripple and get us on our feet. Like many of their recent tours, the band was accompanied by a third saxophone player, bringing the total horn count up to a staggering five. Tying into my mention of their cult fanbase earlier, the crowd sung along to the horn lines just as passionately as singer Tomas Kalnoky’s anthemic lyrics.

Even if you’re not a fan of ska, it’s hard not to appreciate the expert musicianship Streetlight provides. Drummer Chris Thatcher in particular is a beast behind the kit, both in terms of speed and aggression. This was most evident during “As The Footsteps Die Out Forever,” whose d-beat started a dizzyingly fast circle-pit. Bassist Pete McCullough also got his time to shine, shouted out by name by Kalnoky before a bass solo that gradually worked its way into “A Better Place, A Better Time.”

That shout-out was one of the very few times Kalnoky or the other members provided even a word of banter. Streetlight’s live sets are pretty airtight, preferring to knock out as many songs as possible per night. Luckily, the band is very careful at crafting setlists that give the crowd some room to breathe in-between more intense moments.

Including an encore, the band played 17 total songs, with a pretty even distribution of their entire discography. Probably the biggest highlight of the night was after playing half of “Point / Counterpoint,” the horns suddenly shifted into the iconic “Keasbey Nights,” playing the entirety of the latter before finishing the former. Encore closer “1234 1234” was also a treat, as the band rarely plays this track live outside of Keasbey anniversary shows.

Overall, this was another excellent performance from Streetlight, with a Chris Farren mystery opening slot as the cherry on top. Even if you’re not a huge fan or are uninterested at their still-present lack of new material, I recommend seeing them if they come near you just to be wowed at their energy and technicality.