Save Ferris w/ Vista Kicks and It Gets Worse
Tractor Tavern, Seattle, WA

Music has often defined periods of time: the psychedelic rock of the 60’s, disco in the 70’s, synth-pop in the 80’s. In the late 1990’s, ska captured the zeitgeist of the mainstream music scene, with SoCal band, Save Ferris, at the forefront. After 18 years of dormancy, with the release of their new EP, Checkered Past, the band came back to Seattle’s Tractor Tavern with the same palpable spirit.

Opening the night was energetic local ska band It Gets Worse. Tractor Tavern does not have a big stage, so it was an accomplishment in itself to fit all eight band members up there. Once they did though, they were one continuous rolling boulder of madness and fun.

IGW’s sound was classic ska/reggae. Lead singer Chelsea Crispin’s dancing and vocals were a force to be reckoned with. Their stand out song of the night was “Anymore,” a track about the arc of sadness from losing love to not giving a shit anymore, with its awesome crescendo of slow to raging tempo. Near the end of their set, they raffled off a mallard mask, which showed off their lovable, carefree nature.

Next up was the California quartet, Vista Kicks. Whether or not their name had anything to do with their matching red and white hi-top Converse All-Stars, they definitely had style. When they got on stage for soundcheck, VK were very unassuming and it seemed we were destined for a big departure from the high energy of the opening and headlining bands. But that was not the case.

VK managed to combine the California rock sound of Rooney with the anthemic nature of Kings of Leon, and the absolute swag of the Doors. Their lead singer, Derek Thomas, had charm for days and a voice that alternated between booming and intensely soft. Plus, he had the dance moves of a classic rock front man. Their sound was affably described as “booty-shaking rock” by Thomas, as he implored the crowd to follow suit.

With straightforward rock tunes like “Mona Lisa” and “Marcilene,” it was hard not to shake one’s tuckus. Outside of their fun-loving personas, their musicality was tightly composed. The foundation of this came from guitarist, Sam Plecker’s intricate licks and solid rhythms. They closed their set with the title track of the EP, “Chasing Waves,” a lovely ode to the struggles of chasing your dreams.

Packing the Tractor Tavern on a Sunday night is no easy feat, but SF still has the star power to do it. They made their name in the late 90’s alongside bands like Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Goldfinger, Streetlight Manifesto, and Reel Big Fish, and have managed to maintain a fervent popularity. When the lights went down and the band made their way to the stage, the crowd was in a frenzy. As iconic frontwoman Monique “Mo” Powell made her appearance, in her pink wig and high heels, the room erupted.

Opening with “World Is New,” the band dove right into their SoCal-crafted sound complete with high leg kicks and awesome off-beats. The appreciation, applause, and love shown to the band after such a long hiatus drove Powell to tears at the end of the night, showing just how much they’ve been missed.

The crowd was eclectic and full of personality, lifelong fans shoulder to shoulder with a new generation. Despite divides in fashion and style, everyone united in dance during staples like “What You See is What You Get,” “Mistaken,” and “Anything,” with their chaotically fun horn runs and happy rhythms.

Powell had a distinct pin-up style about her that complimented her vintage-tinged voice. Her showmanship was on display during her sultry introduction to “Superspy,” and she continued showing her charisma with “Goodbye,” a song that evoked a back-alley bar while talking about kicking a lover to the curb.

“We were asked recently, ‘why now?’” said Powell, regarding their comeback.  “The world needs ska now more than ever,” she said, referring to how guitarist Patrick Ferguson answered the question. In a way, they are right. Ska is happy, ska puts you in a mood to dance and to just let go. SF also showed that ska was more than just a fad, it has staying power and can stand the test of an 18-year hibernation. It was wonderful to see a band’s checkered past has birthed a bright future.

Review and photos by Phillip Johnson