I live in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Victoria is located on Vancouver Island, which, in case you're wondering, is not where Vancouver is. Vancouver has a pretty great punk scene, Victoria does not. But for some odd reason, Victoria is home to arguably the best ska scene in the country. We are particularly blessed to have the Victoria Ska Society, a volunteer group which brings in great bands from around the world, and each year they host Victoria Ska Fest, the longest-running and largest ska festival in North America. As a bit of a teaser for Ska Fest this year, we were fortunate enough to have the Aggrolites playing with a couple of BC acts, Brand New Waves and the Easy Brothers, from Victoria and Vancouver, respectively.
The show started with the Easy Brothers, who brought a nice ska-punk sound to the show that went over quite well with the crowd. The band had a bit of an early Rancid or Operation Ivy vibe to them in their verses, albeit with a cleaner sound. They sounded great, and brought a lot of energy to kick off the night.
Next up was Brand New Waves, who I was a bit nervous about because their MySpace did not sound extremely promising. However, chalk that one up to a poor recording, because they were excellent live. The band's sound was one that you'd assume came from an island, with a good blend of ska and reggae and a nice laid-back sound that prepped the crowd for the Aggrolites. It's a shame that their brass section consisted only of a saxophone player, though, as it would've been nice to have a few more horns in there. However, he made the most of his time on stage, not only playing the sax but also putting it down on numerous occasions to play the keyboard.
Finally, the Aggrolites took to the stage and the dance floor completely filled up. They opened with a couple of tracks from their self-titled album, and the crowd was singing along and dancing their hearts out. Even those who weren't lucky enough to be on the dance floor (the venue was a club with a small, sunken dance floor in front of the stage, with lots of tables and several different bars around the dance floor) could be seen dancing along at the edges of the bar -- it would be hard not to.
The band rarely (if ever) missed a beat, and having the backing vocals of the whole crowd for the various gang vocals made them sound even better than they do on record. Lead singer Jesse Wagner strolled around the stage getting the crowd into it, bassist Jeff Roffredo looked to be having the time of his life, and Roger Rivas may be the meanest looking organ player on this planet. The band played a great mix of fan favourites from their three released albums, as well as a bunch from the soon to be released IV. The band closed the set with "Dirty Reggae," but were cheered back out on stage for an encore, which consisted of a couple of cover tracks. Their rendition of the Beatles' "Don't Let Me Down" was particularly noteworthy, with most of the audience likely losing their voices after chanting the chorus into Wagner's outstretched microphone.
After a couple of hours of dancing and shouting along to the music, the crowd was soaked with sweat but as happy as ever. The Aggrolites are a real treat live, their concert exceeding all expectations. If they come through your town on their upcoming world tour, you'd do well to buy a ticket and check out their brand of dirty reggae.
- Mr. Misery
- Funky Fire
- What a Complex
- Jimmy Jack
- Time to Get Tough
- Feelin' Alright
- Countryman Fiddle
- Make It Reggae
- The Sufferer
- Faster Bullet
- Soul Gathering
- Prisoner Song
- Free Time
- Dirty Reggae
- Skinhead Moonstomp (Symarip Cover)
- Don't Let Me Down (Beatles Cover)