Story by Robin Moss, Photo by Adrian Lysenko

Over the past few years, The Seaside Villains have become a mainstay on the Thunder Bay music scene, peddling their infectious blend of ska/reggae/rock. By their own admission their goals are simple: “To have a great time, and to ensure that the audience is having an equally rocking time, shaking their moneymakers.”

With that said, their April 11 show starts off somewhat low key, with two short solo acoustic sets courtesy of singer Ryan Furchner and guitarist Eric Westelaken. Featuring reggae-fied versions of “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke, “Ain’t too Proud to Beg” by The Temptations, “Sold” by Dan Mangan, and “Ophelia” by Canadian roots icons The Band, among others, it’s well executed but barely enough to capture the audience’s attention.

The main event kicks off around midnight. From the get-go TSV are catchy as hell. Serpentine bass licks, rapid fire drums, clipped upstrokes on the off beat: all the classic reggae elements are there. Yet underneath it all lies tightly crafted, hook-laden pop. Yes, the songs are complex, abruptly switching tempo and rhythm at the drop of a hat, but they’re also concise, lean, and utterly devoid of gratuitous showboating. Simply put, here’s five musically gifted fellas who know what they like, like what they do, and do it damn well.

Surprisingly, the crowd is a little slow to warm up. The turning point comes during a rousing rendition of crowd-pleaser “Cover of the Rolling Stone” and by 1 am heads are nodding, feet are tapping and the mosh pit is awash with grooving bodies.

Furchner proves he’s a natural frontman, singing with conviction, exuding charm and confidence, engaging the crowd with witty banter, and providing dancing duties during the musical breaks. Bassist Dave Angell and drummer Josh Hogan hold things down with an incredibly tight rhythm section while guitarists Eric Westelaken and Justin Silman trade crunchy riffs, wah-drenched solos and their trademark chop/chunk style.

With an new album due out this summer and more gigs in the pipeline, The Seaside Villains show no signs of slowing down. To miss them would be nothing short of criminal.