The Toasters Crescent Ballroom 2/12/14
It's often said that good things come to those who wait. So after a decade of waiting, I finally got a chance Wednesday night to once again catch one of the oldest ska bands in the United States in concert: The Toasters.
And despite having fewer members these days than during its heyday of the '80s and '90s, the band still puts on an impressive show.
Led by guitarist and frontman Robert "Bucket" Hingley, The Coasters have gone through much in the way of lineup changes over the past three decades. Their current members obviously went through quite the screening process to be playing in such an esteemed ska band. Needless to say, they're akin to a "who's who" of the American ska scene.
The Toasters' current bass player, Thaddeus Merrit, is from Westbound Train, a fantastic Boston based soul/ska band, and Big D and the Kids' Table's drummer, Derek Davis, also plays with them. Matched up with a noticeably jazzy horn section, as well as a much talked about sound system, and these cats were really rockin' during their Crescent Ballroom set on Wednesday night.
I arrived to, unfortunately, see Sara McAllister's project loading out. If you've never heard this amazing acoustic ska/reggae band in any of its facets, I feel sorry for you. They can groove and get a crowd skankin' in no time. In my opinion, they're the best ska band in town, if not the state. Beat Betty and Fullstop (a.k.a. the AZ Ska DJs) were droppin' sweet tunes on the crowd without fail between sets. For those who are familiar with the pair, they have an extensive collection of ska sounds and vinyl, from classic Jamaican ska and 2-Tone to more modern ska and ska-punk. (You can also catch Beat Betty on KUKQ every Thursday night.)
As the DJs were spinning, 2 Tone Lizard Kings were busy loading in. They just returned from a brief stint around the Southwest with The Toasters, including both playing to a played to a sea of fans at Ska Wars in Los Angeles.
Each time I see the 2 Tone Lizard Kings, they are better than the previous time. They always prove themselves to be worthy, whether it's by their skill alone, sharing the stage with Jamaican musicians like The Skatalites, or sharing drummer Cameron Tuttle of Warsaw fame with Sara McAllister. They've never really been a band that I've particularly followed; and yet, with a style that seems to cross over from The Toasters to Warsaw, and an intensely energetic stage presence, I'm proud to have them in the local ska scene.
Toward the end of their set, the 2 Tone Lizard Kings even busted out a cover of The Specials' "Little Bitch" for the crowd, which responded to their singing of the titular lyric as well as the band's fierce vitality radiating from the stage.
After 2 Tone Lizard Kings, it was time for the Toasters. Straight out of the gate, you could feel their power reverberating off the drums through the crowd. Bucket commanded one helluva sweet set, especially when he played classics like "I'm Running Right Through the World" off of their 1997 full length, Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down, and both "Talk is Cheap" and "Weekend in L.A." from their first LP, 1987's Skaboom!
Hingley was shredding on guitar and belting out vocals like he did 10 years ago, if not 20 or 30 years ago. Davis did a wonderful job driving the band as well and busted out some great fills. On top of that, Merrit pounded out smooth bass lines and shouted backing vocals as if he were in a punk band. Overall, I was pleased to catch the Toasters again, even if they're a slimmed-down version. I love that kind of vivacity, especially in a ska band.
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