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Enthusiastic Dance Hall Crashers at Palace

Now that the grunge backlash is in full effect and Green Day has thrived on power-pop, third-generation punk is making way for its even lighter-hearted sister: ska. At the Palace on Sunday, Berkeley’s premier ska group, the Dance Hall Crashers, played with the enthusiasm of a brand-new act, although it’s been slogging it out around the East Bay for nearly a decade.

The Crashers had a lot to cheer about, after all, their Southern California doppelganger, No Doubt, has shown that this kind of music can be taken to the top of the sales charts. Another affiliate, Rancid, which once employed two founding Crashers, also made a mark in alternative circles this year.

Slipping bits of London’s late-'70s politically charged “Two-Tone” movement into their effervescent sound, the Crashers enhanced ska’s bouncy, pogo-perfect guitars with the harmonizing of Elyse Rogers and Karina Denike. The two women worked a highly entertaining Chuck D and Flava Flav act, with Rogers playing the straight woman and Denike, looking like a life-size marionette in a doll-like Heidi get-up, rallying the crowd.

Rogers and Denike delivered odes to coffee junkies (“at least he’s not smoking crack”) and repentant boyfriends from their latest album, “Lockjaw.” But even newer songs were the highlight as the three guitarists cajoled novel melodies out of ska’s too-familiar rhythms.

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Unfortunately, the Crashers’ main strength--light and fluffy enthusiasm--is also the band’s biggest weakness: Weightier lyrics would make the poppish pie fall, but they would also lend the show much-needed substance.


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