Streetlight Manifesto to bring the house down at Pearl Street

By George Felder

Flickr/pennstatelive

Ska-punk band Streetlight Manifesto will be performing in Northampton tonight, a stop on their North American “The Hands That Thieve” tour in support of their latest studio album by the same name. The album, the group’s first collection of original music since 2007, is set to be released on Nov. 6.

Streetlight Manifesto will headline the show with opening acts Lionize and The Chicharones.

Comprised in part of previous members of Catch 22, Streetlight Manifesto is a seven-piece band featuring all of the amenities of a typical rock band, while also featuring elements of brass and woodwind instruments as part of their ensemble. The front man and lead singer, Tomas Kalnoky, has been laying down the quintessential gritty punk sound since the band’s formation in 2002.

Most, if not all, of the other members also provide backup vocals, but Kalnoky has been one of the select few members to stay with the group through the 10 years of its existence, making his voice the paramount characteristic of the band’s works.

The group is also known for its intricate instrumental work. Several members of Streetlight Manifesto are classically trained at their instruments of choice, and the amount of work each one puts into every song is evident. This meticulousness may explain why, much to the dismay of fans, the band takes several years to produce a new album.

Streetlight’s music falls in the ska-punk genre as an amalgamation of multiple kinds of music. Ska itself has been prefaced by the “Two-Tone” movement of the 1970s from which it originates, and in this vein it typically embodies a vast array of moods, beats and melodies. One thing is centrally characteristic of all ska music, however, and that is an incentive to dance one’s butt off or to “skank,” the dance move that is associated with this particular style of music.

Though the bands work has certainly evolved over their last 10 years of being together, it is typical of musicians of this particular subgenre to draw from other influences as a guide in this process. Streetlight’s influences range from the power of punk to the vibes of jazz and even the old country Romani sounds of eastern European music and klezmer. When coupled with the grit of Kalnoky’s voice and the danceable beats of the drums and bass, no one is immune to Streetlight’s groove.

Ska music has been shaking the butts of many all over the globe since its origins of dance-hall reggae styles popular in the Caribbean around the late 50s and early 60s. Thereafter, due to the style being picked up by major American and European bands, labels and DJs, the sound has evolved from its simple dance qualities to a dynamic mash up of jazz influences mixed with pop, rock, punk and basically everything but the kitchen sink. This is part of what makes this type of music have such a global appeal; since many different cultures serve as an influence to it, they can appreciate how innovative and catchy it really is.

Originally formed as an ad-hoc trial-and-error kind of posse not really planning on making fame or a fan base, Streetlight Manifesto formed from seven members each with distinctly different musical backgrounds, which gives their ska its own unique eclectic sound. According to the group’s Facebook page, they only became a full-time band after the release of their debut album “Everything Goes Numb,” which dropped in 2003.

Since then, members of the ensemble have come and gone, except Kalnoky of course, and the band has released three more albums titled “Keasbey Nights,” “Somewhere In The Between” and “99 Songs Of The Revolution: Vol. 1.”

The band’s tour is named after their upcoming album titled “The Hands That Thieve.” This album will be accompanied by another similarly titled album called “The Hand That Thieves,” featuring the solo work of Streetlight’s lead singer Tomas Kalnoky under the artist alias Toh Kay. The two albums are available now for preorder, and fans can also purchase them together as a vinyl set.

The doors for the show open at 7:30 p.m. and it is set to begin at 8 p.m. with crowds undoubtedly skanking the night away.

George Felder can be reached at [email protected]umass.edu.