I don’t remember where I was the first time I heard Sublime. It was probably in my buddy’s busted Honda hatchback, all things considered—we never got anywhere in style, or quickly, but we always had good tunes. It was a time of discovery, a sonic awakening in us all. The world around us was changing and the car that was propelling us was falling apart, but we didn’t care. We just wanted to reminisce about April 26, 1992, and smoke two joints.
Today, the political climate has divided the masses in so many ways. There’s rioting in the streets, and the media constantly informs us of our failings. One might say the world is headed to hell in a hand basket. But that shouldn't deter us, or give us the DC blues. We'll always have good music, no matter how dark or depressed we think the world has become. The first time I heard B Side Shuffle’s “Tiny Magnets”, I knew I'd found something special, something to comfort me the next time I endured a Government Shutdown, or equally senseless DC problem. Like Sublime, or the funk reggae musings of my youth, I still find the diamond in the rough that can be 'life'. That diamond is the playlist I'll bask in while the world burns.
I draw on the palate of my youth not to make a characteristically common genre sift, or because I think Bradley Nowell wouldn’t be pleased with B Side’s very capable homage in Bradley’s Revenge—I do it because reggae, funk, and pop music have a way of bringing us all together. A way of unifying the divided world, and igniting memories of where we were when we first heard that special track, that B Side, that gem that really struck a chord in us. For me, I was in a sold-out crowd watching B Side Shuffle at the 9:30 Club this past April – and my iPod has had B Side on rotation ever since.
If you haven’t heard of the Shuffle, or felt its uncontrollable effect on your feet, you soon will. I envy you, because you only get your first time once. Born on the brimming streets of the Nation’s Capital, a homegrown group of Rock’s most unlikely misfits is on the rise, and soon to be destined for a bright and vibrant future. I don’t think music has a specified list of ingredients, so it’s hard to say how this band even found its way off of H Street. If you had to ask me what they sound like, I probably say simply... 'Fun'. That’s the beauty of music and its tireless expression in a native, live format. It’s really hard to define what ‘fun’ is, and as such, I can’t explain what it sounds like. You always know it when you’re in it —or by stark contrast, when you’re not. Go to a B Side Shuffle show and tell me you’re not having fun. I dare you.
It’s more than just music -- it’s an experience.
I have a hard time defining B Side to those that I have shared them with - are they funk, are they reggae, are they dance pop or noise-rock? I really don’t think it matters. Bob Dylan didn’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blew. You don’t need a sonic palette or a genre map to enjoy the Shuffle. I hope that you would be, as I have been, simply impressed. The production is layered and woven; designed to touch every sense in a unique way. The band’s laid-back demeanor opens up into a fury of energy that more closely resembles a punk show, and would earn the approval of any musical purist. But we, the masses, don’t see all the hard work, all the countless hours in the studio or practice space—to me, and so many others, there’s a rugged simplicity to the experience that is B Side Shuffle that has us coming back, time and time again.
After that first show, I thought this band’s energy was fueled by a series of Red-Bull-5 Hour Vodka Tonics. I couldn’t have been more wrong. After a few e-mails and phone calls, I had an opportunity to accompany B Side as an embedded reporter, if you will, for a show at Rock & Roll Hotel. While most bands might relax, or take the edge off in their own unique way, B Side was rehearsing and jamming with their horn section on acoustic guitars–not in attempt to create a blissfully perfect recreation of their last album, Farmalade – but simply because they truly love the music, and they all love to make it together.
You’ve still got time to see B Side before the inevitability of national profile will rip them from DC’s huddled masses. It’s only a matter of time before someone hears “The Window” or “Castle in the Sky” and decides that up stroke dance funk is meant for more than just the East Coast’s ears alone.
In 2014, B Side released a brand new EP and played countless venues, outdoor festivals, cloakroom sized stages, and even a Pirate Ship. Yes, you read that right; they rocked out on a freaking Pirate Ship.
They’ve graced the 9:30 Club twice with All Good Presents, and this December they’re gearing up for a sure-fire-9:30-sellout, co-billed with White Ford Bronco. I think DC’s best 90’s rockers are going to be impressed with the number of Shuffleheads sporting the DC Flag at that show.
But don’t take my word for it – here are some upcoming shows in our area, where you can find out for yourself - so shuffle on, and shuffle hard.
Update: B Side Shuffle's show at the 9:30 Club on Friday, December 19th, has now sold out. But you can still see them here:
Baltimore, MD – B Side Shuffle and The Northerners at Metro Gallery – Saturday, January 31, 2015 - After two slam-dunk shows at The 8x10, B Side Shuffle returns to Baltimore to headline Metro Gallery. Tickets here, RSVP here.
Charlottesville, VA – B Side Shuffle at Main Street Annex – Friday, January 30, 2015
Richmond, VA – B Side Shuffle at The Camel – Friday, February 27, 2015
Washington, D.C - Saturday, February 28, 2015
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