I’m not really a festival guy at all, but I do like a great double-bill. When I saw that the English Beat and Squeeze were touring together, it was simply too tempting to pass up. So the BRP Fun Tour 2016 kicked into gear, the van was outfitted, and the noble rock ‘n roll road trip was once again put into motion.
The show was held at the “new” 9:30 Club in Washington, DC, and while that club has been open for probably 15 years or so, it was my first time there. I had done a lot of damage at the former 9:30 Club location when I lived in Northern Virginia, and I was looking forward to visiting the updated version. My take? It’s substantially bigger (probably holding 500 -700 people), has terrific acoustics and decent sight lines (a sloped floor would have been nice for those not 6’5”), and is a worthy venue on the national club circuit. But be careful of the door guards – the word “assholes” does a disservice to assholes everywhere. These guys have kicked it up a notch - they're well into the 'taint zone, if you catch my drift.
The English Beat
The English Beat opened the show with their typically zesty and playful set. I’ve seen EB about 4 times in the last 3 years, and they are one of the most fun bands around. Dave Wakeling is still the undisputed leader of the group, and the King of Ska does about ½ the vocals. The Ranking Roger replacement, King Schascha, is a presence on the stage with his long dreadlocks, dancing antics, solid vocals, and master of ceremonies island-flavored riffs. The rest of the band is terrific, too, with multiple keyboards and a great sax player.
You need to come ready to dance and party when these guys rip into the ska, and we did just that. EB played a lot of the songs everyone wanted to hear – Tears of a Clown, Can’t Get Used to Losing You, I Confess, Save It For Later (BRP’s personal favorite), Ranking Full Stop, Mirror In the Bathroom – but didn’t do Stand Down Margaret, Hands Off She’s Mine, or Rough Rider. Oh well, life’s not perfect, but sometimes its damn close. So regardless, it was terrific fun and the joint was jumping, even in buttoned down DC. And BRP danced his skinny butt off and sang along with the crowd like a rock ‘n roll grommie.
Here are some pictures. I know that you’ve gotten used to me pushing my way to the front to grab some awesome shots just for you, but on this night, I hung back a bit with our large group of guys and gals. I don’t know if you can tell, but everyone in the band other than King is wearing a collared golf shirt – nice touch! And yes, I continue on my string of seeing southpaw guitarists as Wakeling is a lefty.
EB left the stage, the roadies roadied, and drinks were bought and discharged. Next onto the stage was Squeeze. I love Squeeze and was hopped up for this show. But it came up a little shy. Yes, they played many of the requisite songs – Tempted; Another Nail For My Heart; Pulling Mussles; If I Didn’t Love You; Is That Love; Hourglass; Black Coffee in Bed; Take Me I’m Yours – and even dipped heavily into the early years with Slap and Tickle; an awesome version of Goodbye Girl; Cool for Cats, which I've never seen performed live by Squeeze; and Up The Junction. The band was super tight. And they looked good, too – Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook are pushing 60, but remain fit, dress stylishly, have all their hair, and still sound great.
So what was the problem? First, the dreaded new album songs. Hey guys, I love ya, but nobody is that interested in the new songs. You’ve been around since the new wave days in the early 80s and we want to hear the old stuff that hooked us in the first place. Second, a terrible cover song that you’ll never guess. Harper Valley PTA. Yup, Harper Valley PTA. WTF? You have more than sufficient material to fill a two hour show, and you pick that lame song? What next, a cover of Tiny Tim’s Tiptoe Through The Tulips? (Tilbrook plays the ukulele for a short period during the show). And finally, not one damn song from their great album Frank. Hey, I understand that everyone loves Cool For Cats, Argybargy and East Side Story, but BRP really digs Frank, too. Just one song next time, please? And where the hell was Piccadilly and In Quintessence, two of your all-time best songs?
But enough bitching. Squeeze played some great songs to an appreciative crowd, did so without much banter and in a rehearsed and professional manner, and had a very cool video display cranking all show long for those height-deprived individuals in the sold-out crowd. It was a great double bill, and a pretty sure-fire way to have some fun on a Tuesday night in the Nation’s Capital. The BRP road trip was digging it, and a big-ass suite at the Mayflower topped off a pretty fine evening. A couple of photos are below of the band.
What’s up next?
Funny you should ask. I’ll be back in DC on Friday and the photo below should answer your questions about what brings the Kid to DC twice in one week. Yes, Teenage Fanclub and again at the 9:30 Club - SOMEBODY SCREAM!!!!
Thanks for reading, as always, and catch up with you soon. I hope your Fall is cruising along well, and that you are adjusting to the dark and the chill. I hate that crap, so I better find out who is playing live in sunny Florida in the next few months. Rock on, young uns.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.