Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Toasters, Mrs. Skannotto, the Useless and the Jerkwadz @ the Shredder (1/31/13)

This was a big one for me.  The Toasters helped bring ska from the U.K. to the U.S. back in the 80's.  Their leader and founder, Robert "Bucket" Hingley, also formed Moon Ska Records, which is reportedly the biggest independent label devoted to ska in this country.  They've played Boise quite a few times, but I'd never gotten the chance to see them until this night.

I counted about thirty-five people when I got down to the Shredder.  The crowd grew to about forty-five or fifty as the night progressed.  Modest but respectable.

The Jerkwadz opened the show.  Their tunes sounded as tough and supremely catchy as always, and Jimmy Sinn's buzzing guitar and casually muscular vocals both sounded in good form.  However, a certain awkwardness held the music back.  Sinn's guitar, Cacie Lee's stolid bass and J.R.'s quick-stepping drums didn't quite mesh the way that they should have, which made everything feel just a little bit off.  The problem could have stemmed from a lack of rehearsal time: Sinn told the crowd that they'd only practiced with J.R. three times in six months.  Still, the songs got over because they're that friggin' good.

Up next was the Useless, who played with only two horn men this night (Jason Rucker said that he had no idea where the hell the third guy was).  Regardless, the band members who did show up sounded just fine.  Rucker's friendly bark and ripping guitar grooved seamlessly with his bandmates' rubbery bass, slamming drums and woozy brass.  A sizable chunk of the audience moshed, danced and stage-hopped.  Banter-wise, an especially nice touch was when Rucker dedicated the love song "Taco Truck Girl" to Shane and Miranda Brown, who were outside hard at work in P. Ditty's Wrap Wagon.

Mrs. Skannotto, a six-man unit from Rochester, NY, played next.  It took the crowd a little while to warm to this group's mix of brawny vocals, soaring horns, warped guitar, coursing basslines and lithe, muscular drumming.  However, once they downshifted from some anthemic, 90's hardcore-tinged material to some smooth reggae grooves, people started to move.  By the time that they revved back up with some manic ska, the joint was jumping.  Damn good stuff.  It was a little odd, though, seeing a guy and gal swing-dancing to "Girlfriend," a rowdy yet slinky number about stalking an ex.

The Toasters closed out the night.  Damn near everyone in the crowd danced during this set and rightly so.  "Bucket" Bingley's rough, charming croon and sharp guitar blended with Logan LaBarbera and "Lonestar" Johnson's jazzy horns, "Westbound" Merritt's rippling bass and Jesse Hayes's unstoppable one-two beat.  Songs like "2Tone Army," "Run Rudy Run," "Weekend in L.A.," "History Book" and "Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down" were as bouncy and irresistible as anything this side of Desmond Dekker.  Their warmth and good humor were reflected in Bingley's jokes and banter with the audience (I wonder, did he get a picture of the barefootin' girl's feet like he said he would?).  Simply wonderful.

You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.

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