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SHOW REVIEW: Save Ferris/The Smugglers/The Varicoasters
La Luna, January 30, 1998-Portland, Oregon

By: Alex Steininger

With the resurgence in ska music, bigger venues like Portland, Oregon's La Luna (with a capacity of around 1,200) now house the majority of the ska shows that come through town. And tonight was no different. Save Ferris, and their brand of pop-ska and a hint of swing, came rolling through Portland at La Luna.

Kicking the night off was Eugene, Oregon's The Varicoasters. I don't know what it is about these guys, but each time I see them they tend to add more and more punk influences to their brand of ska. Rough, moan/shout like vocals lead this six-piece ska-punk outfit. Once they hit the stage, they dove right into some ska music that you could dance too, with enough distortion on the guitar to mosh with. But due to opening band syndrome, aside from a few skankers, most everyone stood there waiting and watching to see what this band was all about. The horns kept blasting through various numbers, while the guitar jumped from punk riffs to thick upbeats that were great for dancing. And with each new song, a few more dancers sprinkled into the picture. And of course, determined to see a smile on everyone's face, The Varicoasters continued to keep the energy alive onstage, flowing from one song to the next with ease. In between songs, the lead singer also took the time out to make a few rock star jokes. Such comments as "I can't wait to become a rock star" were very apparent all through the night. Whether they meant it or not, it went over as humor with the crowd, adding that much more of a fun feeling to the night. Two songs before the set were to end, various members of the crowd started screaming for a "beer song", hanging on the assumption that anything punk has to have one. Falling on deaf ears, The Varicoasters closed out their set, and seemed to have got the crowd ready for what they came for.

But first, they'd have to get past Lookout Records' The Smugglers. Stepping on stage, they first commented on the "ska sandwich" bill they were on, and then dove right into their Buddy Holly influenced pop music, with a slight punk feeling to it. From the opening chords to their first number, the crowd decided they had had enough, and could no longer stand still (after all, The Varicoasters were on the edge of getting everyone to dance), so a big portion of the crowd quickly started jumping and dancing around to the mighty infectious beats courtesy of The Smugglers. Mighty catchy hooks, these guys tripled the energy level in the room. The temperature was rising as everyone started jumping, bouncing, and smiling along to the music. Then, right before they jumped into another song, they decided to have a "Smugglers' dance contest", with the winner receiving a little trophy. The song was hot, the crowd was movin', yet their could only be one winner. Coming out victorious, a young female jumped on stage to claim her trophy. Right then The Smugglers' jumped into the hottest song of their set, "The Buddy Holly Convention". Smoking guitar hooks, hard pounding drums, and loud bass moved the crowd with such passion, I doubted Save Ferris could top the energy level achieved during this song. After this song, everyone decided we wanted to go sit down and have a drink, so we headed for the cafe.

After about thirty minutes at our table, the cafe emptied and everyone rushed for the door. After the line was clear, I headed out of the cafe, and back to the music. A local DJ was announcing Save Ferris' entrance. After he left the stage, Ferris Bueler's theme song started to play, as the members quietly hit the stage and took their position. As the band started to play, Mo (lead vocals) danced onto the stage, with a fur jacket and all. Taking the jacket off, she quickly entered in with her rich, luscious vocals. Right then, the energy level quickly surpassed that of The Varicoasters and The Smugglers combined. Everyone in the house was movin' and dancing to the music. Kicking it off with "The World Is New", everyone was dancing and singing along. Changing a few of the lyrics in the song to accommodate Portland ("And Portland, don't you know? The world is new!"), the crowd quickly cheered and clapped, going crazy for the band they had come to see. Diving through more of their infectious pop-ska numbers, the energy level continued to grow and grow. Stopping for a second to introduce the new drummer, Mo introduced him as "Kevin", and then realizing her mistake introduced him as "Evan." She then proceeded to tell everyone that he'd been with them exactly 13 days, and that he was doing a great job. Turning her head to look at him, she went, "I swear, I didn't forget your name. It just came out with a K. I swear, I didn't forget your name. I know it's Evan. Really I do. And your doing a great job. Isn't he doing a great job everyone?" The crowd started to scream and applaud. "So come introduce yourself to him after the show, alright?" Then he began to start off the next song, a slower swing-pop number by the name of "Superspy." The trumpet player quickly melted in with his blistering hot horn lines, followed by the other two horn players. A few more bouncy pop-ska tunes, more sweat and heat thrown into the air, and they decided to play "Lies," a slow pop number that can go the route of VH-1 as well as MTV. Mo started off, "We don't usually play this one, but on this tour we decided to play it since whenever we play it people seem to meet new friends. And the last time we were in Portland, that was the first time we played this live." The song came off really well, and the crowd really dug it. Everyone slowed down their dance a bit, and just swayed with the music. Slow or fast, Save Ferris provides the music that lets everyone have a good time. And Monique is quite the character. A very personal, open front women for the band. Speaking her mind with humor and kindness, when she opens her mouth everyone smiles and laughs at what she has to say. Closing off their set, they left the stage.

But after a performance like that, of course the crowd is going to be wanting more! Cheering and yelling for an encore, Mo quickly came back on with the band, thanked them for the encore, and dove into their Operation Ivy cover, "Artificial Life." The crowd once again leaped into their dance, screaming and everything, having the times of their lives. Then ending the show with their teen angst anthem, "Under 21," the crowd left the show feeling warm inside from all the love, happiness, and humor Save Ferris brings a long with them to a show. Phenomenal live, these guys know how to put on a show.

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