Rave On: A Tribute to the Reducers Vol. 1
CD release party Sat., Sept. 22 at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center Rose Barn, 305 Great Neck Road, Waterford. (860) 443-5378, goodsponge.com
There was a Reducers show in the mid-1990s at Yale's GPSCY Bar. The band didn't play New Haven all that often; the band's New London hometown didn't know how good they had it. This show, apparently, was one of the first times the Reducers had ever set foot on the Yale campus.
Which was remarkable enough. But the opening act that night was the Del Crandalls, a New Haven band that formed in 1989 (a full decade after the Reducers had) yet shared precisely the same pop/punk principles.
A key element of any Del Crandalls set was the band's killer cover of a Reducers song, "Fistfight at the Beach." They did it so well that they couldn't not do it, even at a show headlined by the Reducers themselves. There were calls for it, and the Del Crandalls did it.
Then the Reducers played. Somewhere amidst the crushing melee of power chords and calls of "Let's go!" or "Yeah, yeah!" or "That's right!" or "How did your mother let you get to be that way?" singer/guitarist Peter Detmold paused. Without lessening the show's manic tone or the band's tough-guy onstage demeanor, Detmold praised the Del Crandalls' rendition of their hallmark hellacious beachfight anthem, and announced that "That song's yours now. You can have it."
Such a generous passing of the torch, such graciousness in the line of punk rock, was typical for the Reducers. For generations of rock bands in Connecticut, the Reducers were the tough, sweet, hip, cool kids you looked up to.
The Reducers — Detmold, fellow guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Hugh Birdsall, drummer Tom Trombley and bassist Steve Kaika — had an extraordinarily broad fan base. They ruled biker bars and on college campuses. They played during fireworks spectacles at huge citywide family festivals such as the Daffodil Festival in Meriden and SailFest in their native New London. In 2001, the Reducers played a memorable Mother's Day show at Ocean Beach Park in New London with garage-rock exemplars the Fleshtones and the Lyres plus a host of young, metal and new-rock bands.
The tight-knit Reducers — over three decades a band without a single change in the lineup — exude camaraderie. They fostered a sense of community in the New London rock scene, and that community has risen up to thank them.
When Reducers bassist Steve Kaika died this year, benefit concerts set up in his honor became memorial shows, and the scene was so much affected that even bands who were playing at other clubs on the same nights as the Kaika tributes paid tribute as well.
Now there's a full-fledged CD anthology to honor the Reducers, 24 passionate tracks by musicians who've long admired New London's most important rock band. The album opens with a version of "Let's Go" by the Rattlers, a band fronted by Mickey Leigh, witness to early years of '70s punk. The Rivergods take on one of the Reducers' recent masterpieces, the despairing yet hopeful "My Problem," and give it a burst of No Depression earnestness. Former New Haven Register rock critic Fran Fried leads the Backstabbers through a roaring "Out of Step."
Mark Mulcahy (the former Miracle Legion frontman and subsequent solo artist, himself the subject of a tribute album a few years ago) was the guest vocalist on the Reducers' own version of "My Problem." For Rave On, Mulcahy formed a band called Birdfeeder with Chris Harford and Andrew Weiss and rearranged "Sound of Breaking Down" into a wistful soul tune. Other bands include rock honkytonker Paul Brockett and his Roadshow (ripping into "Nothing Cool"), Big Fat Combo (yelping "Yeah Yeah"), radio-friendly scene boosters Dave Rave & Lauren Agnelli ("Company Man")…
…and, of course, the Del Crandalls do "Fistfight at the Beach."
So come on! The celebration kicks off, naturally, with a CD release party Saturday night at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center Rose Barn, just down the waterfront from New London in Waterford.