The Expendables came through New York’s Highline Ballroom this past weekend on their 2016 Spring Blackout Tour. Opening acts included Pasafire, Roots of Creation and Tunnel Vision. Reggae In NYC had a front row seat for all the action of this amazing show.
Tunnel Vision a new surf reggae band from San Diego is just starting out and this was a major tour for them to be included in after the release of their self-titled debut album. Highline Ballroom often has a curfew for shows on a Saturday as they try to open as a bar. With so many acts on the bill Tunnel Vision had to start early. They hit the stage promptly at 6:15 PM. With such an early start in NYC there was not much of a crowd, which I thought would affect the band, after just playing to a packed how at the Stone Pony the night before. However I was incorrect, as one member of the band said, “whether it’s two or two thousand, its great to play.” They hit the stage with gusto and performed a series of tracks from their debut album. Saxophonist Andrew Riordan from Roots of Creation also joined them on stage for a few songs. The dueling saxophones were great to see. While this band is just starting out, they offer a unique sound. They have a great future ahead of them in reggae music.
Following Tunnel Vision, Roots of Creation came on. The band entered with the theme music from Star Wars which got the now growing crowd excited and set the tone for the type of set they would put on. “ROC” as they are often referred to brought the needed energy to Highline, jammin’ through their classic tracks. Known well for their live sets, they did not disappoint. With a shoutout to the opener, they brought Doug Alani, from Tunnel Vision back to the stage for a jam and keyboardist Tal Pearson took a crowd pleasing solo on the melodica. Once the vibe was right they treated the audience to new singles off their coming album Livin’ Free, set to be released April 22. Tracks like “Struggle” produced by Ras MG and “3x A Lady” were well received. Known in some circles as a jam band, “Row Jimmy”, originally a Grateful Dead track would be great to hear when they had time to really stretch it out. I hope to one day see them perform in their home state of New Hampshire to get the full jam band vibe.
Passafire was quick to the stage as the Roots of Creation finished their set. Somewhere in the transition the mics got turned down, as they were hard to understand for the first few songs. This did not stop the band who right away fired up the crowd with songs “Kiss My Head” from the album Start From Scratch. Vocals were hardly needed as they crowd sang the words for them. The band, feeling that energy, started jumping up and down on stage, driving the crowd deeper into the vibe.
Taking time to feature all members, bassist Will Kubley took multiple solos as well as passed off the bass to play lead guitar for a few tracks. One solo in particular was reminiscent of early surf guitar driving the beat faster and faster as the crowd danced along. Songs like “Man of Wishes” off the Vines album, changed the tone occasionally from reggae to rock and kept the feeling fresh. If these antics were not enough, Mike DeGuzman came out with a shoulder strap keyboard and proceeded to jam center stage with bass and lead guitar next to him in a power trio. The overall performance was amazing. I look forward to the next time they are in NYC.
As Passafire cleared the stage the crowd pushed forward and piled in for the final act. Coming out to an instrumental version of “I Got Five On It” and sporting a Santa Cruz Skate Shop tshirt, The Expendables let the crowd know they may be in the East, but they were represent California.
They kicked off the set with a cover of the Eek-A-Mouse song “Ganja Smuggling”. With this the tone was set as smoke slowly filled the air. Raul Bianchi moved from lead guitar to keyboards with easy as the band jammed through tracks like “Minimum Wage” off the Open Container album.
As they rounded out their set the smoke increased as fans sang along to tracks off Prove It. To end things The Expendables brought out both Ted Bowne and Mike DeGuzman from Passafire to join them on stage and hype the crowd. Final songs like “Down, Down Down” proved to be almost too much as the fire alarm went off and lights began flashing. Even with alarms blaring, the band did not stop playing and fans kept dancing. What a show!