Keyboardist, singer and songwriter Vic Ruggiero made his name as a featured member of the Slackers, a significant and prolific New York City-based ska band in the style often called “third wave.” The first wave of ska happened in Jamaica, of course, in the ’50s and ’60s. The second wave mostly describes the British variety of ska, 2 Tone, popularized in the ’70s. Unlike so many second- and third-wave ska bands – from the Specials in the ’70s and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones in the ’80s to our own regional ’90s legends Perfect Thyroid – the Slackers are kind of the opposite of hyper, frenzied and frenetic: Their groove is languid, graceful, smooth and deep, their tempos moderate, their arrangements sophisticated, layered and melodically rich. Even so, they are a party band of sorts; but it is a smoldering, moody and soulful party.
In his memorable solo performances, Ruggiero shelves ska entirely in favor of an early rock ’n’ roll, blues, country and rockabilly fusion. Like a street musician, he performs solo on guitar (what appears to be a cheap Teisco from the ’60s), a bass drum and a high-hat for his feet and a harmonica. Unsurprisingly, his groove remains languid, graceful, smooth and deep. The songs on his 2008 solo release Something in My Blindspot have that timeless and familiar quality, like discovering standards that you’ve never heard before.
The newly revitalized Colony Café features Ruggiero at the head of a lively bill on Saturday, June 14. The lineup includes the region’s premier reggae/world band the Big Takeover, as well as a reunion of the great New Paltz power-blues trio the Jonny Monster Band (as Jonny Klenck returns for a visit from his new home in Tennessee). The crazy “skagrass” outfit Los Thujones plays as well, along with Rosendale’s inspired and unique singer/songwriter Shabbat.
Vic Ruggiero, the Big Takeover, the Jonny Monster Band, Los Thujones & Shabbat, Saturday, June 14, 8 p.m., $20/single, $30/pair at Jack’s Rhythms in New Paltz & Woodstock Music Shop, Colony Café, 22 Rock City Road, Woodstock; www.colonycafewoodstock.com.