by John Dempsey
Energy. Swagger. Funk. Rock. Blues. Just a few of the words I’d use to describe Black Stars. The local band has been working their way up the proverbial ladder of the original music scene. They have done this through hard work, networking, and most importantly, great music.
Comprised of four young guys from New Jersey, Nik, Freshy, Chester and Mike have been earning the respect of other musicians over the past few years. Their high-energy shows are infectious and they are always willing to work with other bands to put on a great show. So many of their contemporaries completely miss the networking aspect of the scene. They have been hosting an open jam session the first Tuesday every month at The Legendary Dobbs on South St. “I like doing it once a month, it gives you the opportunity to build it up. We’ve had some absolutely epic nights there,” says Nik Greeley.
As a band they are all invested in developing the scene within the scene. Building camaraderie with other bands is a great approach. You make friends and contacts and you open yourself up to more shows and opportunities. “Black Stars are like their own version of Rage (Against the Machine), but in no way do they try to sound like them. They’re aggressive, but at the same time they move you with their fun and melodic tunes. The rhythm section is definitely in your face, hard hitting. The fact that Freshy is an incredibly talented bassist adds to the funky vibe. I love those kids because of the way they bring it. They do not fuck around. Their jam nights bring out some talented musicians and we at Dobbs, always look forward to their nights. Really, I’m a huge fan of those guys,” says Edwin Ramirez, the General Manager of The Legendary Dobbs.
“What do you sound like?” Every musician hates this friggin’ question. “Um, I dunno. We sound like us.” But every musician knows the answer, because they’ve practiced saying it a hundred times in their head. So, what do they sound like? My first thought is early Incubus. Minus the alien fascination and the two turntables. I hear it in the chunky bass lines in songs like “Slick.” I also hear it in the change from the intro to the verse in “Can’t Stop Me Now”.
So what do they think they sound like? Or better phrased, who are their biggest influences? “My influences are all over the place, a broad scheme. My Morning Jacket, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Stones, Radiohead. Radiohead got me through high school. Actually, our band name comes from the Radiohead song “Black Star”,” explains Greeley. (Side note, props on name spelling as well. It’s like in Empire Records when Mark tells Lucas he is going to start a band and envisions calling them ‘Marc’. Well-played sir.) The band collectively pulls influences all over the place as well, Incubus (told you so), RHCP, Hendrix, etc. The goal is sexy-funky rock with an edge, but still catchy, and in a pop format.
They achieved their goal with the release of the their self titled album, Black Stars, this past March. “We wanted a real, raw live recording. We wanted to capture our energy of playing live. I’m really proud of how it turned out,” says Greeley.
They’re youthful energy will probably come in handy this week as they’re about to go into festival overload. This past weekend they played the Hollystock Music & Arts Festival with other local bands Kid Felix, Jackson Rider, The Great Socio and more. This Sunday they will be playing in the Beta Hi Fi Music Fest at World Cafe Live. Before Sunday, they will be participating in another festival. That’s basically three in a week. This Thursday, Black Stars are playing the 2nd Annual Liberty Fest hosted at Dobbs. “Hollystock was really fun and we hope to do it again next year, lot of great bands and just an overall cool day to be a part of. This Thursday will be our second year in a row playing Liberty Music Fest.”
They are actually not just playing Liberty Fest; they are headlining the opening night. This year they were one of the highest scoring bands voted on by the Liberty Fest panel. “It’s great having Black Stars headlining opening night. They are the true essence of what Liberty Music Fest is all about. They work hard, have a kick ass live show, and have developed into one of the top bands in the Philly Scene,” says Jim Thorpe, the co-founder of the Liberty Music Fest.
If you want to see what they’re all about catch them in one of their upcoming shows. Liberty Fest is probably a good bet. They’ll be the guys on stage going all out wearing dress shirts they stole from Dwayne Wayne’s dorm room closet at Hillman.