The Ex Senators
Bowery Electric, New York, NY
August 22, 2012
Concert Review: The Ex Senators
The LocalBozo.com crew loves going into intimate NYC rock venues and checking out bands previously unknown to us for the first time. On Wednesday night, we headed to the bustling Bowery and ventured into the basement of the highly popular namesake of that street, Bowery Electric. Our purpose? Checking out Chicago band “The Ex Senators.” The show would be shortened due to the special nature of their New York appearance, but it did nothing to take away from capturing what these guys are all about.
The band hit the small stage taking a properly stripped down approach. There was no big intro by some disembodied voice or some long musical interlude to bring them out. Instead, it was more of a ‘take me as I am’ approach, as the towering “Dmac” took center stage with the rest of the five piece quickly getting into position. As soon as the band began playing, it became clear that the men of The Ex Senators straddle the line when it comes to music style. If you had walked into Bowery Electric without hearing the entire set you would believe that The Ex Senators were a ska band. And while they seem to have mastered the roots of the storied genre, made famous by bands like Operation Ivy and The Descendants, at the drop of a dime they morphed into a different band altogether, showing off a blues meets hard rock style with a cutting political edge. Guitarist Phabulous G.J., donning a hat and dark glasses, wielded his axe, laying down some slick and heavy licks in tunes like “The Kids Are Trouble” and “Start a Fight,”- the latter of which shows off the band’s political stance. Rhythm guitarist Van meanwhile, seamlessly melded with Phabulous’ work creating sweet ear candy while easily holding his own alongside.
While taking in the heavier live tracks our crew looked to each other, coming to agreement that Dmac sounds a lot like Pepper Keenan of Corrosion of Conformity and Down, evidenced by “United Corporations of America.” With vocals resembling the aforementioned frontman, Dmac’s style and attitude are all his own. The Ex Senators have easily been influenced by the likes of counter-culture greats like MC5 and the hero of the working man, Bruce Springsteen. This band was tight on every song played signaling to each other for every change, while feeling the room out to see what to lead into next. Their veteran onstage presence was loose, embracing the crowd to give it that lost bar band feel of yesterday. This defiant attitude was a welcome for the room, especially coming from a band who anticipates doing a large scale tour across the pond soon.
While the set was short, providing just a small taste of what the band is capable of, the show was a fun one, with songs that the crowd on hand was really able to get into. It can be difficult for a band to wear several different musical hats and have them all fit comfortably. The Ex Senators prove they can do this while at the same time injecting their political beliefs into their listeners with the hope they stop and seriously take notice.
- Jay Rubin