Starring: Vic Ruggiero, Dave Hillyard, Agent Jay, King Django, Sammy Kay, Bob Timm, Jake W-M, Dave Barry, John Pinto, Bucket, and lots more people!
Directed By: Samuel Gursky
Movie Link: http://brooklynrocksteady.com/
The latest music documentary, Brooklyn Rocksteady, comes from young filmmaker Samuel Gursky, who has been working on this movie for about two and half years. You don’t have to be from Brooklyn or NYC to like this movie, you just have to have an appreciation and love for ska, reggae and rocksteady music.
Brooklyn Rocksteady goes through the timeline of NYC ska & rocksteady in the early 80s and 90s. Bands like the Toasters, The Slackers and Skinnerbox were at the forefront and then things spread out into sub-genre after sub-genre. Ska finally hit it big in ‘96/’97 (no thanks to Carson Daly & MTV) and it was a true test for true ska bands and musicians. A little after that, Adolf Giuliani starting closing down a lot of the music venues, and the gentrification of the Village, Lower East Side and the rest of Manhattan was in full effect. After The Mighty Ska Downfall, either bands went the stupid emo route, disbanded or some just happily went underground to Brooklyn and other cities. Which is where the main focus of this music documentary is about…the dirty reggae, rocksteady and ska scene after that time frame in Brooklyn.
I can’t get enough of music documentaries. I just loving watching them and more and more of them have come out in recent years thanks to Kickstarter. This project was funded by Kickstarter in the beginning but only for a few grand to get it lifted off the ground. You can tell Sam lived and breathed this thing for almost three years. I particular like music documentaries where I like the band or the music that it’s focusing on; it’s also helpful when I was apart of that scene (some of it) as well. This documentary was great because it had interviews from a lot of people I know or covered over the years. It also featured bands I never really got into so these type of movies are good because now I can check out their music.
Honestly, even though I’ve never stopped liking ska, rocksteady, etc. I never really knew about the Brooklyn rocksteady scene all that much because Brooklyn is a pain in the ass to get to. I used to live in Orange County, NY and was a hike to drive to shows in Manhattan. Shows in Brooklyn or Long Island were out of my distance. I still kind of feel that way about Brooklyn, even though I live in Jersey City now. It’s still a pain to get to, especially late at night since the mass transit in New York sucks donkey dick. My bitching aside, it’s great to see an underground scene strive and survive for so many years without any major label backing or anything like that. Everybody does it for the love it: The bands that play the music and the people in the crowd. Everyone is there to have a good time, hang out and enjoy the music together. That’s essentially what this documentary shows.
I liked that the movie covered some of the music clubs that closed down because that was a heartbreaking thing for many ska & rocksteady fans. Clubs like The Wetlands, Coney Island High, Tramps, The Cooler were many hot spots for music fans and then poof they were turned into condos and bed stores. Once you take away the clubs, bands and promoters had to find another spot for shows and that’s why you see a ton of smaller shows in Brooklyn now (or did). I do think the small ska/reggae scene is coming back to Manhattan, slowly but surely. Thanks to promoters that love the music like Matt Flood at Asbestos Records and Marc Wasserman & Steve Shafer at Electric Avenue (Characters on W 54st) to name a few. The more shows they are in the area, the happier everyone will be…except maybe the mayor, the police and the rich elitist residents.
If you’re looking for a music documentary solely on ska music from all periods you’ll be disappointed in this. The late 90s ska scene is talked about early in the film but then moves away from it. This documentary mainly focuses on the current rocksteady/dirty reggae scene that is usually overlooked. I do hope someday there will be a music doc that focuses on the heighten ska scene of the 90s and Moon Records. And if Samuel Gursky doesn’t do the documentary, I’ll do it haha. And if I don’t do it, I’d love to be interviewed about it.
Brooklyn Rocksteady is now available for free streaming at YouTube and Vimeo. Be sure to tip Sam for his hard work, and you can purchase the movie as a download as well. If you dig the music in the movie, there’s also a soundtrack.
Bottom Line: An excellent documentary about the NYC/Brooklyn ska & rocksteady scene of past & present
Running Time: 59 mins