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My show review of Save Ferris would not be complete without sharing how it all began…
Sitting between two of my long-lost cousins in their truck as it bumped along San Diego's streets one night in November 1997, I fought tears. My Grandmother had passed away a few days prior. I was numb. My family and I made the 10-hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area to sunny San Diego to be with my mom’s side of the family. Our parents told us teenagers to go out and have fun. The last time I saw these two sibling cousins we were under three feet tall and running around playing games like tag.
The cousin driving asked me if I knew this band or that band. Majority of the bands were out of the San Diego area. The moment he played a few seconds of the Ska punk band, Save Ferris's song “The World Is New” – love at first listen. A fast trombone and trumpet intro as the drums pick up speed, matching the horns, then the elegantly powerful vocals of Monique Powell helped steady my tears that evening.
Save Ferris came onto the SoCal Ska scene in 1995 during the 3rd wave of Ska music that originated in the 1950s in Jamaica. On September 9, 1997 their first album, “It Means Everything” was released. I listened to that CD till there were scratches underneath and I had to buy a new copy. Their second album, “Modified” came out on October 19, 1999. These albums were staples on my CD rotation and were my music psychologists of sorts, helping me through future heartaches.
Fall of 2000, I started my first semester at Sonoma State University. They coincidentally had a show at the end of September in Santa Rosa. I went alone so I could write a show review, then for the campus paper, The Star. I began the show standing at the stage and met another Lisa who said she had been to dozens of their shows to take pictures. Toward the end of the show, I climbed on top of one of the skateboard ramps on the right-hand side like others had so I could see the entire stage. Only in California, right? There were no smartphones. Cameras were prohibited. But I remember the show; it meant everything.
Fast forward 17 years…
Save Ferris are back together? New band members? New album? Now living in Washington, D.C., I bought my ticket immediately after learning they had a show at the Black Cat on Wednesday, March 2nd.
The Black Cat opened its doors in the fall of 1993 and continues to support the independent music scene, both local talent and bands on tour from all over the country. It's a spacious club with a bar on either side of the venue and a black and white checkered floor.
Once Save Ferris hit the stage, the unmistakable sounds of the trumpet (no longer a trombonist in the band) and the drums I knew – “The World Is New” kicked off their show. Monique, dressed in a tight-fitted, strapless, leopard-print dress, black heels and her more recent signature short bright red hair, looked and danced with the same energy she had 17 years before. She has that distinct throwback voice one would have heard in a swanky club in the 1930s; a little Jessica Rabbit meets Peggy Lee.
I stood at the far right of the stage looking up at the handsome Gordon Bash, who gives new meaning to the term multi-instrumentalist. During one song, while playing the bass with one hand he played a few notes on a trumpet.
Monique addressed the crowd after a few songs and said to call her, Mo. She teased how long it had been since they toured and how we were all around 9 years old the last time they toured. Time was ticking and telling her to get back on the road.
The set list continued to be like having their first album on play. They threw in a few songs from their second and ended with their new songs like “New Sound,” that celebrates the original Ska movement. Symbolic both to when the music style was first created in the 1950s in Jamaica and to Save Ferris who are back in the music scene with their new sound. My new favorite of theirs, “Anything,” is reminiscent to the sound on their first album.
The stand-up bass may have been a bit bigger than Gordon but he still hoisted it over his head and rested it on his shoulders to play toward the end of one song. I was in awe during another song when he set the bass on its side and crawled on top to play a few chords. I loved their show and look forward to when they are back in town.
Monique chose her words well when discussing politics and ended her thoughts saying, “We need Ska now more than ever!”