By Anthony J. Machcinski
In the music culture, a band being together for over twenty years seems like an eternity. Many bands such as Metallica, the Rolling Stones, and Aerosmith have become legends not just because of the music they produce, but for the longevity of their careers. One band, who will play the Kearny Irish Feb. 4, can be considered with those names because of their members’ ability to stay together.
The Pietasters, a ska band out of Washington D.C., was formed in 1991 and still remains together today, playing wherever crowds appreciate its music. Ska music, which originated in Jamaica in the 1950s and moved into American culture in the early 1980s, is characterized by a walking bass line and rhythms on the upbeat.
“It’s pretty much rock and roll with a different beat,” explained Pietasters’ vocalist Steve Jackson.
The Pietasters got started while Jackson and other members were in college.
“We were a bunch of friends who tried to put together a punk rock band,” Jackson said. “We had a friend do ska, so we gave it a try. We started playing it at parties and people seemed to enjoy it. It was a fun thing.”
Since its inception in 1991, the band has seen its share of lineup changes.
“This band’s been around a long time. It’s hard to reinvent it,” explained Alan Makranczy, the Pietasters’ saxophone player who became part of the band around 1993. “(Joining the band was) the best opportunity as a horn player like that. Truth is, I wasn’t that into ska.”
The band’s longevity can be attributed to a passion that exists in all of the members.
“I just want to keep playing music,” Jackson said, inspiringly. “We’re older, we have kids and have other responsibilities. Everyone in the band is proud of where we’ve been.”
“Our love is playing live and having a huge stack of songs to choose from,” Makranczy added.
Even with longevity, good music is required to continue to be able to perform live in front of audiences. This is a statement that the Pietasters definitely back up. With a strong horn section, definitive beat, and soulful vocals, the Pietasters give the evidence needed to make a statement on their longevity.
“Told You the First,” a very funky number that can’t stop listeners from moving to the beat of the song, showcases the band’s horn section with the right amount of grittiness in the vocals similar to a James Brown song or any song from the late Sublime lead singer Bradley Knowell.
While none of the songs make listeners feel unhappy, the band’s rowdier side comes out in the song “Maggie Mae.” In what can only be described as a modern day drinking song, the Pietasters use strong beat and an equally strong horn rhythm to create a song that just oozes good vibes. The multi-man vocals also stay consistent to another band the Pietasters have traveled with, the Mighty Mighty Bostones.
In their travels across the nation and the world, the Pietasters have been able to perform with several headline acts, but none larger than when they were able to play in their hometown with one of the greats.
“(One of the greatest moments was) playing with James Brown,” Jackson remembered. “We were approached by a local radio station and told James Brown was going to play here. He was the tie into the older generation of music and asked if we thought we could play his music. We went in the garage for a night and just did his songs. Three days later, James Brown and his guitar player came in. We were the backing band for James Brown at the MCI Center.”
While the Pietasters have been able to perform at highlevel gigs, the band has no reservations as to where it plays.
“Everywhere you have a good time and it’s a good crowd (are our favorite places to play),” Jackson explained. “It doesn’t have to be huge to be a great show.”
The band is in the process of making another album, although a date and name have yet to be released.