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XXsKa-MAS Party and The Hard Richards Reunion

XXsKa-MAS Party and The Hard Richards Reunion Show

at Propaganda, Lake Worth Beach

Twas a couple nights before Christmas and the local enthusiasts of all-things-ska huddled into Propaganda in Lake Worth Beach, FL for an event 25 years in the making. On Friday December 20, 2019, old school punk rockers, The Hard Richards, came together once again for another reunion show after their official breakup at Summer Daze 2014 hosted at Propaganda five years earlier. Fans of all ages who followed the grungy group of depraved souls from the inception of their garage punk rock with a ska twist, melded with a younger generation of new age ska lovers who were graced by the performances of The Zoo Peculiar, Control This!, and The No Name Ska Band as the holiday party marched on.

Opening up the night at the downtown bar and venue, was local sideshow hobo trio sensation, The Zoo Peculiar, and as the name suggests, a peculiar bunch indeed. This bizarre circus-like vaudeville act is probably the most unique undertaking any local South Florida music group has ever carried out. The “outer space circus act” is led by Professor Frank “Nipples” Phineas Lambshanks (lead vocals, keys, veterinary) who this time was dressed as bizarro Santa with white facial makeup and color hair extensions (and is usually dressed up in a most outlandish fashion), and he is accompanied by Furious “Ginger Bear” Rod (bass, melodica, legal) and Ryan J. or RJ “Baby Hollywood” Gatsby (drums, 2 cents). The Professor (a real-life local college professor) likes to banter by telling dirty jokes, yelling obscenities and throwing gifts into the crowd as dirty Santa for this show, which I guess is better than getting a lumps of coal thrown at us for being naughty by enjoying such a wayward and lewd, but successfully fun (and funny) opening performance.

“Orlando’s hottest ska, rocksteady and reggae group,” Control This!, showered the crowd with a traditional style rarely heard in Florida’s ska scene. The five-piece is composed of Jeff Richey (vocals/saxophone), Todd Elliot (bass), Jake Jones (guitar/vocals), Lucas Scarpelli (drums), and Austin Kelly (trumpet/keys). Switching between saxophone and lead vocals, Richey sings original and cover songs with the conventional ska sound and blows smooth horn swoons combined with Kelly’s trumpet harmonies. I discovered the rocksteady rockers at The Bark Benefit V event I wrote for in November, and I have become fascinated and infatuated with their conjoined medley of traditional reggae styles. I was completely overjoyed for falling in love with one of the best Florida ska bands at this show!

Next up was Lake Worth punk and ska locals, The No Name Ska Band, who is co-led by Matthew Krug, an owner of Propaganda and “second-wave” Hard Richards guitar player. Usually the entire band is garbed in black ski masks, but tonight was a special occasion so each member rocked a different get up. Krug rocked on lead guitar and vocal shouts/harmonies, and was dressed as an upside-down naughty Olaf, with his carrot and eyes protruding out of Krug’s nether-regions and topped with a white ski mask and mohawk, while fellow front-man Ben Childs (vocals/saxophone/guitar) had Jack Skellington facial makeup, Andres Valencia (trombone and harmonies) had the traditional black ski mask topped with a Santa hat and was shirtless with suspenders and the two-tone black and white checkered ska shorts, while bassist Andy Johnson and drummer Zach Zeigenfuss wore Santa hats. Bar manager/bouncer/newly-formed MidnightFires vocalist, Mykal Morrison joined his fellow local companions to harmonize on a few songs like “More Fire,” a ska-heavy harmonic and fast-paced tune that was released as a music video earlier this summer. The ska fans enjoyed one of their favorite Lake Worth ska-punk rock acts and echoed back the chorus of Minnie The Moocher by Cab Calloway, with the signature “Idy-Idy-Oh” and ended their set on a literal high note!

To conclude the XXsKa-Mas Party, was a rare reunion show with Florida’s favorite obscene punk/ska/reggae/rap rockers, The Hard Richards! Since 1994 front-man and lead vocalist Steve “Rabbit” Abbott has been the cornerstone and “band-dad” that has kept the energy going that defines The Hard Richards. In-between their 2014 hiatus and now Abbott has dedicated his time volunteering with Future 6, a charity South Florida local charity organization that provides free ocean-centric activities for children with special needs. The rest of the current line-up includes the members who finished out their retirement show at Summer Daze and most amusing group of friends with original guitarist Brian “Braincell” Koshefsky, Alex “Big A” Ruzyki (co-lead vocals/original member), Matt “Two Belts” Krug (guitar), Iiro “Frank” Maki (bass), Evan “Noto”, Christa Knox (saxophone), and Andres “Dre” Valencia (trombone for both No Name and THR). Their set opened with oldie favorite “Dog Beach Dub,” and included a variety of songs from their last two albums What Did You Expect? and Nu Direction, plus some Operation Ivy covers and an amazing cover of “Saw Red” sung by saxophone player Christa Knox! All in all, the final performance of the night, combined with the previous acts, brought one of the HIGHEST energy-level shows I’ve seen in all of South Florida and Propaganda Live! It is because of original bands like The Hard Richards, having been a huge influence on their predecessors , that allowed the South Florida/Lake Worth punk rock scene to evolve and fuse with other genres like reggae, ska, metal, rap and rock & roll, incorporating a diverse collection of musical groups, all with unique talents and acts.

Hard Richards Five Year Reunion Interview

SFL Music: It’s been 5 years since that last epic break-up show at Summer Daze outside of Propaganda, and now here we are, yet again, at Propaganda for another reunion show with that lineup. What made you all want to come back and play this holiday XXsKa-Mas Party for us?

Abbott: We haven’t been playing, mainly because some of our guys had to move and do some different things for a while, and everyone just so happens to be back in town. Matt called me up and had been talking to Iiro and asked me if he thought everyone would do it, and I said “Yeah I’ll do it if everybody else will do it!” One thing led to another and here we are a couple weeks later and we’re ready to rock this show!

SFL Music: Is this a one-off or do you guys see yourselves performing together again in the near future?

Krug: We say it’s done every time…it never is.

Knox: The last time is always never the last time…basically.

Abbott: I like to compare THR to herpes!

Knox: Every time you think we’re gone, we always come back!

SFL Music: Does your current lineup include any new faces?

Abbott: It’s the same lineup that we’ve had for the last few shows! We got Christa back on saxophone, Andres back on trombone, Matt back on guitar, Braincell back on the other guitar, Mr. Evan Noto on drums and we got Iiro on bass, and myself and Alex on lead vocals.

SFL Music: Can you explain a little bit about how The Hard Richards came together all those years ago, and how you chose the name and how the current lineup formed?

Abbott: We started in ’94, about 25 years ago, when we were in high school and rockin’ out in the garage, and one of our buddies came over and was like “you should call yourselves The Hard Richards, because you’re all a bunch of dicks!” And it kind of stuck, so that’s where the name came from. We just started playing every house party and gig we could get back then. We started playing Spanky’s, Respectable’s…the whole Clematis strip, there’s places down in Ft Lauderdale we played a lot…and it just kind of grew from there. It ebbs and flows…we get going for a while and as life has it, when you have a band with 6 to 9 players in it, somebody has to go on a different path for a while, and we bring someone new in and fall in love with them! We always invite people back, we don’t burn any bridges and we have a pretty “big dick” family now after all these years with a list of about 20 players that have come and gone. In the end we always have our core that we rely on, and these guys have really stepped up!

Krug: When I joined, it was around when the older original lineup was waning and moving apart and Evan and I were drummers in other bands. He had joined up with THR and had asked me if I would consider playing guitar with them. At the time I was booking shows with Sick Boy Productions and I didn’t really want to be in another band at the moment, but they were always my favorite band to book. If you booked THR show, you weren’t just booking a band, you were booking a party and I wanted to be a part of that! So when Evan and I came in it was like a second-wave revival for THR…I “charmed” Christa into joining the band on sax, and we “stole” Andres from his other band (*Andres lets us know it was willingly*), and Brian was out, so it was Steve and Alex and a whole new band at the moment. A little bit down the road Brian came back and came back on guitar, so this second-wave formed and was the group that played that final breakup show and is coming back for this reunion.

SFL Music: In one of your last interviews you talked about how diverse your sound is. How did all of those different music genres like punk, reggae, ska, metal, and rap become a staple for The Hard Richards sound?

Abbott: It’s because of everybody! I think we all have our go to favorites, as far as our favorite bands. All of us revolve back around to the core. The Ramones or Operation Ivy is a go to for me. As the original crew grew older, we started getting younger cats in the band and started discovering and adding new flavor from them. The younger guys listened to a different type of music or perceived a song in a different way than we did and applied it to them, in their current time. It kind of just mixed all together. You’re not in THR unless you can hang with THR, so we all kind of just jive really well. Everybody knows what everybody’s going to do. We just have something that’s special, and we can grab music and inspiration from all of the different genres of music that we all love and apply it to our music! If music has good energy, we’ll apply it to our music and try to emulate that in our style.

Valencia: One thing I’ve taken as the newest member of the last lineup after being in the band for just over two years…every song I heard from this group, whether it was a different style or genre (punk, metal, or rap)…it was always truly HIGH energy! No matter what song it was, it was always people jumping up and down and losing their minds! High energy all the way!

Krug: From the old school to the new school THR albums, you can hear a drastic change of different influences and energy…but it’s always THR. No matter what style song or idea a new player brings in, the product is still the same and still has THR flair on it. You can hear growth in THR albums over the years, but you never lose THR.

SFL Music: Do you think after 5 years you can still bring that raw and fun energy in your performance you incorporated into your act over the last 20 years as a band?

Abbot: We got a bunch of energy pent up and we’re ready to get going, we’re ready to rock it!
Knox: The only band I’ve ever been with is THR, and it’s been 2 years since our last reunion show, so it’s super exciting for me to get back on stage and rock out with my guys and have a really good time! It’s exciting for me to show a lot of the new friends I’ve made in the past couple years, that knew I played saxophone, but was always hoping I’d play again…and now’s the opportunity for them to come and see what all of the hype’s been about for the last 25 years total.

Krug: I don’t think taking a break is going to take anything away from THR, as soon as that first note hits…we’re not going to skip a beat! The energy is going to come out. That’s not going to change. It’s going to be the same old balls-to-the-wall show of energy it’s always been! The recovery time after the show, now that’s probably going to take a little bit longer, but the energy is still going to be there!

SFL MUSIC: How does it feel to even just be practicing with your friends again for the reunion show?

Abbott: Amazing!
Valencia: It feels like a high school reunion every couple years! It really does. They walk through the door one-by-one and I’m like “HEY! HEY!” We don’t lose a beat…this is family and we’re ready to rock this show!
Knox: I think all of us agreed as soon as we came in the first practice a few weeks ago, it’s like we never left. It’s definitely a natural feeling for all of us to play and be together and like Andres said we’re a family. That will never change no matter how many years go by!

SFL MUSIC: Any chance you guys will be getting together to make new music or play more events?

Abbott: We had talked about getting together every once in a while, we are still figuring it out though. It would be nice to get together on a regular basis with the guys and maybe write some new stuff. I’m not saying no, but there’s nothing in the plans right this second to get this ball rolling 100%. We’re just having some fun and gonna rock out Friday!
Knox: We’re optimistic and hopeful…“Possibly Positive”! Just like one of our songs!

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