“I promise we’re not going away again,” said Save Ferris frontwoman Monique Powell to the packed house at Bottom Lounge in Chicago on March 10. The show, which comes on the heels of the release of a new EP, “Checkered Past,” marked the Orange County group’s triumphant return to the Windy City after more than a decade-long absence.
Longtime fans who’ve loved the band since the 1990s, as well as new Save Ferris devotees who weren’t yet born when “It Means Everything” took the ska world by storm, sang out the lyrics of each and every song, starting with the show’s infectious opener, “The World Is New.” “So what have you been doing the last 15 years,” Powell – the sole remaining original member of the group’s lineup – asked the crowd. “I have so much to tell you,” she joked, adding that while she may feel like a 41-year-old woman, she’s really 24.
Save Ferris represented fun personified throughout the Friday night show, which was presented by Riot Fest. Powell’s fancy footwork and mic stand theatrics further energized an already enthusiastic crowd during deep cuts like “For You” and classic hits including “What You See Is What You Get.” She took every opportunity to get up close and personal with fans, most notably while singing “Sorry My Friend” during which she playfully pushed around a man in the front row. Above all else, Powell’s powerful voice stole the show as she belted out track after track from Save Ferris’ deep discography while simultaneously skanking across the stage.
The horn section popped at every opportunity, but it was hard to take your eyes off bassist Gordon Bash, whose “Superspy” rendition turned musicianship into acrobatics on the acoustic upright. A late-set wardrobe change by Powell only added to the fun of the entire performance. “Nobody But Me,” “Your Friend” and “Mistaken” were also high points of the bright and bouncy set.
Get Up with the Get Downs are the reason fans should always arrive to a venue early. As their name suggests, their show-opening set became a funky dance party that would have made James Brown proud. The second band of the night, Atlanta-based foursome Baby Baby, won over the crowd with their raw power and percussion-heavy punk sound. An impressive conch shell solo by drummer Grant Wallace – who earlier ventured out into the crowd with his cowbell – was an entertaining highlight of their performance.
A lot has changed in the 15 years since Save Ferris last toured across the country, but fans’ passion for their punk ska sound has only intensified in their absence. Powell and company have several dates remaining on their performance itinerary. Head over to SaveFerris.com to pick up tickets to an upcoming show and for more information about the band.