Cash, Grass, or Brass—No One Rides for Free

Chicken Poodle Soup kick their ska into hyperspace
Darin Back

Friday night, Triple Rock Social Club, 11:00 p.m. I think the YoungBlood Brass Band has given me the most enjoyable case of blood poisoning in recorded history. They've banged and blown until my every platelet has been infiltrated with bright, shiny metal. As I succumb to toxemia, I find myself in desire of a good, long march—and I normally can't be bothered to walk my cur to the curb. But my knees are rising skyward. I'm ready to take to the field like it's halftime at the Big Game and I'm the drum majorette, star quarterback, and homecoming queen rolled into one.

With nine players, the Madison, Wisconsin-based YoungBloods have enough members to warrant an order for team jerseys. After Big Easy beatdowns from the two trombones, a mellow sax solo, and some staccato trumpeteering, snare drummer and founding member D.H. Skogen takes the point position and raps a fierce flow over the jazzy squall of his bandmates. You can keep your bass guitars: Nothing lays down a hip-hop-friendly low end like a sousaphone.


Chicken Poodle Soup, Fridge Full of Dreams Last fall, I frittered away hours on YouTube appreciatively watching as much footage of the Chicken Noodle Soup Dance as I could find. The "Chicken Noodle Soup" single, by Harlem's DJ Webstar, was a novelty that would have bypassed my notice if it were not for the song's accompanying choreography. For half of 2006, fans reworked its basic moves into hundreds of fluid individual signatures. I think ska music is like this dance; I already have a pretty good idea of what an album's going to sound like before I hear it, but the form is charming enough to keep me listening while I look for a band's original stamp.

An album by Minneapolis ska sextet Chicken Poodle Soup originally caught my eye because of the goofy and familiar-sounding name. But it was their spring-action horn blasts and bouncy-fresh "Whoa-ohh-ohhs" that held my attention through the five songs on their new EP, Fridge Full of Dreams. With just a hint of nasal bleat in his voice, singer Ryan Jaroscak blows off steam about shitty burger-flipping gigs, second-rate parenting, and the anxiety he can't seem to shake. Underneath his rants is a bass line that walks with the wind at its back and drum fills that slip and skitter like sea otters playing on an ice flow. They've got So-Cal post-punk hooks down—now all they need is a two-step with viral video appeal.


Sunday night, Hexagon Bar, 10:00 p.m. "Somewhere over the rainbow, bluebirds fly...." sings Eric Moeckle as he strums his guitar. Okay, that was a lie—he's not actually stealing from the repertoire of Liza's mom. But for some reason, every song this St. Paul man warbles reminds me of that classic. Maybe it's the wistfulness in his voice, or maybe it's the helpless longing. But as he plays his guitar as if it were a harp, each light note cascading over the next, the vulnerable lullabies he croons threaten to send me sweetly off to the Land of Nod.

Can you accuse a Nick Drake acolyte of being too gentle? The question will have to wait for tomorrow. Moeckle beckons the man in the moon to wink at me, and I'm soon floating up over rooftops, headed for a point just beyond the second star to the right.

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