- The Pilfers
Three constants about New York City: The hot dogs taste better, the baseball teams play better ball in October, and inexplicably, the ska sounds purer, bouncier, and more exuberant. The multiethnic, multigendered Pilfers proudly carry the Big Apple mantle of two-tone excellence, fusing ska's aggression to reggae's nonchalant cool and forging anthemic choruses out of the frantic sound that remains. Their résumés run the gamut of the modern ska scene: Singer Coolie Ranx started out with the Toasters, trombone player Vinny Nobile spearheaded Bim Skala Bim, bassist Anna Milat-Meyer and drummer James Blanck backed up Skinnerbox, and guitarist Nick Bacon held down the Erratics. Those bands favored a classic, laid-back ska schematic, but the Pilfers carry on like fraternity party heavyweights, loading their 1999 Mojo Records debut, Chawalaleng, with kinetic, keg-bursting sing-alongs, anchored by Ranx's half-croon/half-rap and Nobile's pulverizing trombone solos. Mojo has dropped the band, but it's worth showing up just to watch those two firebrands play off Milat-Meyer, easily the most bemused, nonchalant bass player in the industry. And don't worry if you don't know the choruses to "Agua," "Mr. Exploita," or "Legal Shot Pam Pam" -- soon enough, you will.