As I mentioned during my 2022 Music Wrap-Up, I got back into modern ska via Bad Time Records. So when Bad Time Records announced their Bad Time Records Tour 2023 featuring We Are the Union, Kill Lincoln, and Catbite – it was a no-brainer to buy the tickets. As a bonus, they’re also filming a concert film/documentary during the tour called This is New Tone. The show was at Union Stage in Washington, DC. It was my first timewer seeing any of these bands live, my first concert of 2023, and my first time at Union Stage.
Starting off with the venue: Union Stage is a great place to see any band. Upon entering you immediately go downstairs (unless you want something from the bar there) In the basement, almost anywhere you can stand if very close to the band (and only a bad spot if taller people are standing in front of you). Along the whole right side is a bar where you can get drinks and/or pizza.
Bad Operation, another Bad Time Records band, was the opener that night. They’re a more reggae-inspired ska band. It turned out that this tour (at least this night) was a great showcase of many of the different ska sub-genres signed by Bad Time Records. (I’ll give my analysis of each band’s sub-genre as I talk about their set) I used this Bad Operation’s set to orient myself to the club and figure out where I wanted to stand during the shows.
We Are The Union was the next band up. They mostly played songs from Ordinary Life, making it easy for me to sing along with almost every song. They’re from Los Angeles and have a ska sound that’s closer to that Orange County ska sound like No Doubt. I loved how much fun the horn section seemed to be having during each and every song.
After a good 45 minute set, Catbite came on stage. They’ve got a sound that’s almost more like Rockabilly mixed with ska. Their set had a bit more of a mix from different albums although it was slightly weighted towards their latest. I found that I enjoyed their live mix almost better than the album mix.
After another 45 minutes, Kill Lincoln was the final band on the stage. Since they’re a local band, they took the opportunity to have some old band members join them on stage for a song or two. The old fans had some chants for those band members. Just like Catbite, they performed a mix of old and new songs. I think, because they were a local band with, potentially, more fans in attendance, they played more songs from their back catalog than the other two headliners. Having never seen Kill Lincoln before, I thought it was weird that some fan was dancing on stage during their entire set. Turns out, it’s a band member listed as their hype man; he’s featured in many (most? all?) of their live action music videos. That guy was incredibly sweaty after their set. Also, at some point during the concert I went to visit the merch tables and saw a shirt at the Kill Lincoln table that said something like “Ume Safety Crew”. It seemed odd to me. Turns out that the trombone player’s named Ume and he apparently does various stunts. This time he got up on top of a ladder and played the trombone. A bunch of fans wearing those shirts came and held the ladder for him (see second half of the video below). They were also first to catch him when he jumped off the ladder for crowd surfing. It was a very awesome show for the price – essentially going from 8p until midnight.
One of the best things with a label tour, like this one, is that the band members can do song team-ups. Each of the headliners had songs where they would call members of the other bands up to help sing or play the horns (see the gallery of photos just before my Catbite paragraph). Near the end of the concert Kill Lincoln had EVERYONE up on stage. Because my foot was still healing from a sports injury, I didn’t participate in the skanking circle, but everyone there looked like they were having a blast. Even the various band members would join in from time to time. (see the first half of the video above)