Date: April 7, 2015
Opening Bands: 3 Dudes Chillin’, The YJJs, Bumpin Uglies
After not being able to make it the last time that the Bastard Suns played in Pittsburgh a couple of years ago, I made it a point to journey out the next time they came around. They were once again playing the Hard Rock Café and I needed to catch the Suns live for my very first time after randomly discovering them on the interwebs a few years back. I dove into their music hardcore and have been a huge fan ever since. If their live show translated the energy of their songs even the smallest amount, then I was in for one hell of a show.
I made myself into the Burgh with enough time to grab a table and some food at the Hard Rock Café. As many shows that I’ve been to around Pittsburgh, this was also my first time in the Hard Rock and I have to say that I was impressed with the setup. The stage was smack dab in the middle of everything so, if you weren’t there for some music…well, tough luck for you.
First up for the evening was a local band called 3 Dudes Chillin’ and they were just as advertised…three guys with the bare minimum…a ukulele, acoustic guitar and a bongo drum. Their songs were a mix of indie rock and reggae but the highlight of their set was their cover of Sublime’s “What I Got” with the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song mixed in with it. I enjoyed their relaxed setlist and mellow mood to kick things off.
The YJJs, another local band, were up next with their multiple genre-spanning sound. They had a heavier metal sound that they mixed with rock, reggae and some rap. There were glimpses of the Fear Nuttin Band with these guys. I didn’t mind their sound but I wasn’t really sold on them either.
Next up were the Bumpin Uglies, a reggae/rock/ska/punk band hailing from Annapolis, Maryland. I have casually heard of them somewhere before so I was familiar with them in general…vague I know…but I was absolutely impressed with them once they took the stage. They reminded me of fellow Marylander band Ballyhoo but with a faster ska punk sound. They tore through a handful of kickass songs including a cover of Sublime’s “Seed” (an apparent theme for the night), had some fun with the crowd and genuinely seemed to be having a good time playing music for a couple dozen Yinzers. The Pittsburgh ska scene has been pretty much nonexistent in the past few years unless your band has Fish or Jake in the name. This didn’t seem to bother any of the bands though and the Bumpin’ Uglies definitely made a fan out of me with their performance.
It was finally time for the Bastard Suns to hit the stage and they kicked things off with “Oh, Celina!” from Here Come the Suns. My memory isn’t what it used to be so I can’t remember every song that was played (I should have grabbed a setlist but I was tired and had a long drive home ahead of me). I do recall a setlist that was very heavy on the ska punk and reggae, which was surprising but wholeheartedly welcomed by me. There were quite a few skankable songs that I do remember including “Enlighten Up”, “Start A Party”, “Wasted”, “Hold Fast”, “Who the Fuck” and, surprisingly one of my favorite Suns songs aptly titled “Suns Dub” which allowed the dual vocals of Whitey and Clay to take center stage. Not to be outdone by the opening bands, they even threw in a scorching cover of Sublime’s “Saw Red” to everyone’s pleasure.
There were quite a few crowd favorites sprinkled into the set with “My Pint”, “S.B.M.T.”, “Outlaw Song”, the surf rock instrumental “Beach Break”, the epic punk song “Alone in the Crow’s Nest and a cover of the Allman Brothers song “Soulshine” done in typical Bastard Suns reggae fashion. The band ended the night with a song of many styles titled “This One’s Gonna Hurt” which just happens to pay homage to a number of popular 90s punk songs. It was a great pick for a closer because it got everyone in the crowd moshing, dancing and jumping around.
After the smoke had cleared and the thoughts of the night were sinking in on the drive home, I found myself wanting more. I wanted to turn around and have the Bumpin Uglies and the Bastard Suns do another set for everyone. Both bands were really good that night, but the Bastard Suns had definitely been the highlight of the night. Even with a crowd of about twenty people, they played like they were headlining at Wembley Stadium. They interacted with the crowd and were joking around with audience members and members of the other bands and when it came time for the next song, they tore shit up without care or remorse. It’s a given that I’ll be at all of their future Pittsburgh shows for the next couple decades or so. Here’s hoping that there will be another one soon!