SKA'S NOT DEAD: Nor has it ever been. We all know how fickle
music fans can be. Yesterday's grunge is today's swing is tomorrow's
who-the-hell-knows-what. Ska, which is (some would say) passing
out of its third wave of popular resurgence, has been around longer
than most of the people reading this.
First spawned in Jamaica in the early '60s (The Skatalites, Prince Buster, and The Wailers, featuring some guy named Bob Marley, being some of the earliest proponents), ska enjoyed a revival in the late '70s and early '80s. The second wave was centered mostly in England, where Two-Tone, as it was called, reflecting the harmonic mixed-race makeup of the bands and the scene, gave birth to The Specials, Madness, and The English Beat, amongst dozens of others. Even in the "down" years, though, there was always an underground ska scene here in the States.
Virtually every town with a healthy local music scene had at least one token ska band; so it made perfect sense when, a few years back, the ever-increasing proliferation of American ska bands pushed to the forefront of a very crowded national musical landscape. Aided by New York's MoonSka Records, the American ska label, the genre gained momentum, until finally, the major labels caught on and began putting out mostly watered-down versions of the real thing (can you say No Doubt?).
Which brings us to present day. American ska fever seems to have had its day in the sun. A local ska booking agent told me recently that a couple of years ago, all you had to say to any club in the country was, "They're a ska band," and you were in like Flynn, with a hefty guarantee, no less; these days, though, he's having trouble booking even veteran bands who used to pack any club lucky enough to get them. What does it all mean?
It means that ska has gone back underground, where it started in this country. The scene seems to be healthier, in fact, than before the big alterna-radio explosion, because the die-hards have stuck with it, while some of the johnny-come-latelies have dug deeper and discovered what real ska is all about. So rude boys (and girls), wave your flag high and rejoice--Tucson's clubs haven't forgotten you, as evidenced by two fabulous shows hitting town this week.
One of the longest-running American ska bands in existence, New York's The Toasters have been preaching the gospel since 1982, when founder Rob Hingley moved to NYC from the U.K. to find that the British Two-Tone movement had gone virtually unnoticed in the States. Determined to turn Americans onto the music he loved, Hingley formed The Toasters with his co-workers from the comic book shop he was managing at the time. Sixteen years and seven albums later, the band is recognized worldwide as the founders of American ska. (Incidentally, it was The Toasters who also founded the MoonSka label). The band is currently headlining the Independents Day Tour in support of last year's release, Don't Let The Bastards Grind You Down (Moonska Records, natch), which spent countless weeks at the top of both CMJ's Top 200 and Billboard's Top 10 Reggae chart.
The Independents Day Tour, which also features Santa Cruz, CA's Slow Gherkin (Asian Man Records) and Missoula, Montana's The Skoidats (MoonSka Records), hits The New West Gotham, 4385 W. Ina Rd., at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, November 9. Advance tickets for the all-ages show are $10, and are available at the club or by phone at 1-800-638-4253. They'll be $12 at the door. Call 744-7744 for more information.
The other skankalicious ska show hitting town this week is The Fourth Annual Club Congress Scooter Rally. Petaluma, Calif.'s The Conspiracy, Tucson's own Warsaw, and L.A.'s Flogging Molly will all be pumping out the tunes for your listening and dancing enjoyment, and the amazing array of scooters in the parking lot will be provided by you, the club's patrons. If you've never been to one of these events, you're not a true ska fan. The Scooter Rally goes down on Friday, November 6, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Doors open at 9 p.m., and admission is $6. Call 622-8848 for more details.
HOT PICK: With the departure of Upstairs Film's Mike Toubassi, who provided the film portion of Club Congress' Multimedia Mondays, the club has come to the conclusion that if it ain't broke, you don't fix it. In other words, the tradition continues this week with another winning line-up.
The cello-infused delicate pop beauty of Andy Gardner's Wise Folk Malcontent will headline the show. Appearances by this highly underrated local band are becoming rarer and rarer, so don't miss this opportunity to catch 'em.
Opening the show is punk-folk legend Roger Manning, who spearheaded the New York anti-folk movement of the early '80s (which is where one Beck Hansen also cut his chops). While Manning is a solo acoustic performer, he's no mere folksinger; his songs are complex and wordy pieces played with punk rock intensity, and his between-song banter is always rife with dead-on social commentary. Once you see him, you'll be a lifelong fan.
This installment of Multimedia Monday takes place at Club
Congress on November 9. Doors open at
LAST NOTES: Surf guitar legend Dick Dale returns to town this week to a venue large enough to accommodate both his walloping sound and the crowds that always turn out to hear it. (His last two Tucson shows both sold out). If you don't know who Dale is, think back to the opening credit sequence of Pulp Fiction. Got it? Local power pop purveyors Shoebomb open this all-ages show, which drops on the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., on Saturday, November 7, at 7 p.m. Advance tickets are $15, and are available at Yikes Toy Store, Zip's University, Hear's Music, and Guitars, Etc. They'll be $18 at the door. Call 740-0126 for more info.
Fresh off The Big Rewind Tour with Culture Club and Human League, '80s adult-contemporary popster Howard Jones will hit town this week as part of his own headlining tour. The songsmith, best known for his radio hits "What Is Love," "No One Is To Blame," and "New Song," has just released a new album, People, on Ark 21 Records. Jones' band for this tour includes guitarist Robin Boult, bassist Nick Beggs (Kajagoogoo), and drummer Kevin Wilkinson (Squeeze).
Jones will be appearing at the Rialto Theatre on Friday, November 6. Tickets for the show are $17 in advance, and may be purchased at Yikes Toy Store, Zip's University, Hear's Music, and Guitars, Etc. Expect to pay $20 at the door. Doors open at 7 p.m. Call 740-0126 for details.
Attention record-collector scum (a term of endearment among whose ranks I count myself)! Don't miss this year's installment of the Tucson Record Show, which takes place on Saturday, November 7, at the Eagle's Lodge No. 180, 1530 N. Stone. Last year's show was a music freak's Valhalla, with thousands of rare records, CDs, tapes, videos, posters, and other random memorabilia available for purchase at (mostly) surprisingly affordable prices. This year's show promises to be even bigger, with dealers attending from all over Arizona and California. Early bird admission (at 8 a.m.) is $4. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. admission is $2 or $1 with two cans of food to be donated to community food banks. Call Pepe with questions at 798-1668. See ya there.
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