While few bands combine horns and banjo, it's the melodicas and saws that are really the attention grabbers. A melodica is a small plastic keyboard mouth organ that was made popular by reggae dub artist Augustus Pablo during the 1970s. Its sound falls somewhere between an actual keyboard and a kazoo. The saws add an even a stranger dynamic. When Nichols plays a saw tooth-side with a screwdriver, the saw acts as an additional rhythm instrument, but when he flips it over and plays the back with a bow, the saw sings with a ghostly reverb that wails above the playful music like a captivating dirge.
Good music is good music, but a live Frontier Ruckus show is worth the price of admission just to watch Nichols constantly switching instruments, sometimes as often as three or four times within a single song. The stage chemistry between Milia and Jones is a great source of entertainment as well. Often they will end up face to face, picking their instruments in a feverish duel.
Frontier Ruckus is at the Blind Pig to showcase its new CD, Deadmalls & Nightfalls, Saturday, July 17.
[Originally published in July, 2010.]