Buffalo’s Nietzsche’s got a healthy dose of reggae on December 3, thanks to the smell of weed in the air and a band from Annapolis, Maryland called Bumpin Uglies, with Buffalo their latest stop on a tour promoting their new album, Keep It Together.”
Bumpin Uglies, made up of Brandon Hardesty on lead vocals and guitar, Dave Wolf on bass and backing vocals, and TJ Haslett on drums, have quite the resume for a modern reggae band. Since forming in 2008, the Uglies have recorded 3 LP’s, 2 EP’s, a live album, and constant touring in the form of eight national tours and many more regional tours, including performances at Warped Tour and California Roots. On their tours, they’ve stopped in Buffalo seven times.
The tone of the show was set even before the band took the stage. During one of the opening acts, a Buffalo reggae band named Reggie Childs got the crowd grooving thanks to the help of the main band’s fan group, the Uglies Nation, whose members danced near the stage and kept a drumbeat going on wooden boxes by the merchandise stand. This continued well into the main show, which briefly had beach balls pulled down from the space’s chandelier.
It’s hard to call the Uglies style traditional reggae. It’s more a combination of that, plus some occasional fast ska tempos, dub vocal and guitar effects, and some good ol’ alt-rock. A good example is one of their new songs, “Place Your Bets.” The verses and chorus come off as your usual reggae with a bit of dub thrown in, but the instrumental breaks play off like a 311 song. Add a few reverb-laden guitar solos and you’ll have a good idea what these guys sound like.
Given there were a sizable amount of Uglies fans present, the band had great crowd interaction. Hardesty would ask for shots, get a reaction out of saying he saved his drinking just for tonight, and share stories regarding songs like “Bad Decisions” and “Officer O’Hurley.” A fair amount of the show was spent on their new album, with songs like “Load in Load Out” and “Sorry I’m Not Sorry” getting a fair share of audience participation. The odd thing about the set was that on their albums, a horn section will occasionally be present, adding more reggae cred to their songs. There was no horn section present for the show, which didn’t take away that much, but could’ve added a bit more.
Still, it was a fun evening for those in attendance, even for those who appear to have been at several of the band’s shows already. We’ll definitely be hearing from these guys again soon if the topic of modern American reggae music ever comes up, and how it can effortlessly co-opt other styles into it’s own.