Show Review: Rx Bandits and Nova Charisma at Union Transfer in Philadelphia, PA

It’s been about six years since the Rx Bandits have done any sort of touring. Prior to that, they seemed fairly active for the most part, but the six-year gap had fans wondering if their beloved band would make a return. I’d be first to admit I thought they were done, which would be a terrible thing, but in 2022, they surprised fans with an eight-date tour. The tour hit major cities on the West Coast and East Coast. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough for fans to know they still here. Also, certain social media posts make it seem like there is some new music coming, but nothing has been confirmed just yet.

The Philadelphia date included local band Clockwise On Fire, but unfortunately by the time I arrived, they already played. The venue’s site said the show started at 8, but Clockwise On Fire played at 7:30. Regardless of missing their performance, Clockwise On Fire are worth checking out. Being from the Philadelphia area, the duo include Tim Arnold of Good Old War and Found Wild. However, don’t think this is another acoustic-driven act; Clockwise On Fire incorporate elements of funk, psychedelic, and progressive rock. Their music can be found online, and along with the Philadelphia date, Clockwise On Fire will be the opener for the other East Coast dates.

“I need an energy bar to keep up with this band,” is what I heard behind me when Nova Charisma hit the stage. From the first song to the end of their set, Nova Charisma put on one of the best performances I’ve seen in a long time. The best way to describe their stage presence is a mix between Moneen and At The Drive-In, and I could only imagine what it would be like if there was no barricade. Nova Charisma features Donovan Melero from Hail the Sun and Sergio Medina from Royal Coda.

The energy this band give is unmatched: It is chaotic, insane, and genuine. Listening to their music alone doesn’t fully capture what this band is like live, and I’d say go see this band live right away whenever they come through your area. The music might not be for everyone, but I think everyone will agree the live show is a spectacle to see.

There is something special about the Rx Bandits. Even when people were shunning the ska movement in the 2000s era, which Rx Bandits got lumped into, music fans found them to be more than just a ska band. With every release, they pushed themselves in such a different direction with the most insightful lyrics, and I believe this has added to their longevity.

Being a Drive-Thru Records and ska fan in 2000, Rx Bandits were a favorite of mine, and I swore they were going to lead the fourth wave of ska because it was such a different take on the genre. However, I aged with them and understood the direction they were going. Seeing them live in a random town of the Poconos in Pennsylvania during a snow storm to Lehigh University to many Philadelphia shows, I am glad to see them performing again.

Opening the Philadelphia show with the “Untitled” song from …And the Battle Begun, which is an acapella type of intro, right away, the goosebumps formed, and you knew it was going to be a special night. The third song, “Taking Chase as the Serpent Slithers,” from The Resignation, my favorite album from them sounded better than ever, and it was great to hear songs from this album live again. The enjoyment seen from the band was infectious, and you could see smiles from everyone in the crowd.

Attending an Rx Bandits show, there are moments in songs where the band “jams,” and it was great to see the horn section get involved, including Matt Appleton from Reel Big Fish and The Inevitables and Andrew Borstein from Monty Are I. The biggest surprise of the set was when Matt Embree said, “I hope you brought your skanking shoes,” and then went into “Nugget” and “Consequential Apathy” from Progress. This album was the beginning of them becoming something more than a ska band, and I didn’t think they highlighted these songs anymore, even though Progress has a lot of great songs.

After they ended their set, Rx Bandits came back for five more songs including a great rendition of Always Sunny In Philadelphia song “Day Man” which shows Rx Bandits has a comedic side. As this tour comes to an end, it isn’t known what is next for Rx Bandits, but the hope is maybe new music and more touring. Many bands say they have the best fans in the world, but Rx Bandits boast this on their pages, and it is 100% true. No matter when they come back, let it be music or shows; all the fans will be there because this band mean so much to them.

Rx Bandits

Nova Charisma

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