It is counter intuitive to think that a rock band might be playing its best music and enjoying newfound popularity with a young audience 30 years into its career, but that's exactly what's happening with the Radiators right now. The band, which headlines tonight's opening night bill at the Crawfishfest in western New Jersey, has never sounded better and audiencea are taking note.
Even though the big story at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival was the return of the Neville Brothers, the Radiators played opposite the Nevilles on the last day of the fest and packed out the Gentilly stage. The crowd there was packed to the exits that afternoon and the fans didn't budge an inch after a sharp set from the Raconteurs ended. The young crowd waited around to hear the Radiators and a lot of them left the Fair Grounds as newly-spawned fishheads after a white-hot performance that featured guest members Mark Mullins on trombone and Michael Skinkus on percussion.
Skinkus added a layer of voodoo cross rhythms to Frank Bua's rolling marchstep of a backbeat, giving a lurch and roll to the band's dance oriented pulse on dionysian excursions like "Let the Red Wine Flow." Mullins, whose band, Bonerama, is also playing Crawfishfest, has such a strong intuition for building arrangements that he erected a new harmonic structure on "Ring of Fire," a platform that enabled Camile Baudoin to launch a multi chorus guitar solo that seemed to lift the stage off its moorings and had the electrified crowd raging for more. Baudoin had warmed up earlier by participating in a Mardi Gras Indians circle dance inside the Fair Grounds grandstand as Charlie Miller played along on trumpet. Mullins also played several spectacular wah-wah trombone solos. The highlight of the set came when keyboardist Ed Volker combined "Lonely Avenue," "Serve You Write To Suffer" and "Western Plain" in the encore. The man was stoked, pumping his fist in the air as he screamed more than sang the lyrics, turning "...Suffer" inside out in the process.