There are a few traditional ska shows coming up in Providence — The Skatalites are playing the Spot on May 8! Wait, what? Traditional Ska? You know … the original ska … Jamaica ska. Early 1960s; Jamaican independence from Britain; new world, new sound; a blending of R&B and Latin jazz with indigenous Mento rhythms; pure dance music! It’s the sound that started it all and later evolved to become rocksteady and eventually reggae. Yup, over 50 years later and it’s still going strong. In fact, The Skatalites still feature members who have not only been playing ska since the beginning, but had a hand in its birth!
Seeing as they just reissued the entire Specials catalog, maybe some Two-Tone is in order. Great. Now I have “A Message to You, Rudie” stuck in my head. You are familiar with the Specials, right? And The English Beat? Good. Two-Tone was the record label out of England in the mid ’70s that launched a whole new wave of ska. It is basically the ska and reggae guitar skank over rock and punk bass and drums. High energy and often highly political, it’s where ska got its checkers, the iconic image of ska, and was used to symbolize black and white unity. There was a lot of ska being produced in that era, but the cream of the crop were The English Beat, Bad Manners, Madness, The Selecter, and of course, the Specials. Speaking of the Specials, their guitarist is on tour right now fronting Roddy Radiation and the Skabilly Rebels. They’ll be at The Parlour on April 26.
Never underestimate the power of the Dark Si … I mean, nostalgia. Perhaps I’ll take a trip down memory lane and pull out some third wave albums. Third wave kind of picked up where Two-Tone left off. Although the waters start to get murky here with ska punk, ska core and a dozen other hybrids splitting off. Third wave is faster, punkier and distinctly American. If you grew up in the ’90s, this was the ska you probably were exposed to. Not many bands play pure third wave nowadays, but there are a few that keep the torch burning. Personally, I can’t wait for Bim Skala Bim to play their annual summer shows, and The Toasters will be touring through RI in July. Going to be a sweaty summer!
Now, if ska punk is your thing, then you are spoiled for choice. There are ska punk bands all over the place and the holy grail of Ska Punk, Reel Big Fish, hit Lupo’s on June 7. Now, not only is there a thriving national presence, but there is also a burgeoning local ska punk scene as well. Rhode Island bands like The Brunt of It, Short Handed Goal, Sweet Babylon, Bad Larry, and Lemon Lime Tennis Shoes epitomize the style. Take upbeat pop punk riffs, throw in some horn licks and a few skanks, crank up the speed to 10 and boom! You have a circle skank pit sing-along that all the kids love! If you want to check out a live show, go to Fire House 13 on April 24 for RI Ska Productions event.
There is so much ska in or travelling through Rhode Island that the biggest little even has its own promotion company dedicated to it. They have been putting on concerts at local venues for the last seven years and feature performances from every flavor of ska.
So much to choose from, I know. Maybe I should get over my technophobia and get an iPod, click up some playlists and enjoy the smorgasbord of ska. But I’ll probably just make a mix tape instead.