The Chicken Slacks Celebrate Ten Years of Soul at the Cantab

The Chicken Slacks at the Cantab Lounge, 9/17/15
Written by Jonathan Gang

By Jonathan Gang
BU News Service

Tomorrow night the Chicken Slacks will celebrate the tenth anniversary of their residency at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge. As they have for nearly 519 previous Thursdays, give or take a few blizzards and holidays, they will perform a nearly four-hour revue of soul, funk and R&B classics from 9:30 p.m. until the early morning.

The Chicken Slacks’ show consists of expertly played covers of artists like Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett, Al Green and Otis Redding, peppered with a few of their own soulful originals. Week in and week out they pack the charmingly cramped dance floor of the Cantab, a classic Central Square dive bar, with crowds ranging from rowdy MIT and Harvard students to older locals looking to hear their favorite golden oldies.

Drummer Justin Berthiaume and a guitar player who goes only by “Slim” formed the band in the early 2000s, seeking to fill a gap in the local music scene.

“They thought about all the bands in town that do rock ‘n roll, ‘80s and ‘90s music to death and got the ball rolling on a classic soul, funk and R&B cover band,” said Jeremy Valadez, the group’s current emcee and musical director.

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David Giles Jr. and Jeremy Valadez of the Chicken Slacks at the Cantab Lounge, 9/17/15

The founders took the band’s distinctive name from a play on a lyric from Sam Cooke’s “Twistin’ the Night Away,” which originally goes: “Here’s a man in evening clothes… He’s dancing with the chick in slacks.”

After establishing their reputation through gigs in the Boston area, the band inherited the Cantab residency from Boston R&B and Doo-Wop singer Little Joe Cook in 2005. Over the years, the group’s lineup has constantly shifted, serving as a revolving door for Boston’s best soul musicians. Today, no original members remain.

“Not only is the Cantab an institution, the Chicken Slacks are an institution as well,” said Valadez, who joined the group in 2008. “We’ve had great players come through and go on to start their own groups or continue on with national touring bands.”

The current lineup consists of Valadez on saxophone, trumpeter Mike Reavy, guitarist Mike Duke, bassist and longest tenured member “Slick” Rick Roscoe, drummer Ted Sullivan, keyboardist Ben Ricker and lead singer David Giles Jr. It is a diverse crew that includes full-time professional musicians, Berklee College of Music instructors, and even a Boston University computer science professor.

Thursday’s anniversary celebration will see the current lineup joined by several ‘Slacks alumni and other Boston-area musicians. The night will also include giveaways of vintage Chicken Slacks memorabilia, a slight-of-hand magic show, and set-break music curated by DJ Brother Wayne of WMBR-FM’s Lost and Found show.

Catch the Chicken Slacks’ tenth anniversary celebration at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge this Thursday, September 24, from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. For more information about band, check out their website and find them on Facebook.

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