Is the Oberlin music tradition going ska? Signs point to yes, as veterans of their genre the Toasters and the Scofflaws will prove this Saturday at the 'Sco. The bands, who hail from New York's lower-east side and Long Island, respectively, have each carried the weight of heavy reputations within their scene for years, as Obies will have a first-hand listen to over this holiday weekend.
The Toasters are the true grand-daddies here, having released thier first works in the early '80s. Once dubbed "ska pioneers" by Billboard magazine, the Toasters are an inevitable namesake in the multi-faceted history of ska.
With songs of happy, up-beat r eggae to hip-shakin' stereotypical skank-style, the Toasters' repertoire is much loved by their fans and contemporaries alike. As inspiration to the newest generation of ska, the band has helped to pave the way for the fairly recent uprising and exploding popularity of ska music as the main-stream, radio-friendly genre that it has become.
But, as true ska fans know, the history of the music goes way beyond the early-'80s two-tone sound. The Toasters, as well as the Scofflaws, pay tribute to ska's roots in the early '60s, when the style emerged as a new breed of reggae. Commonly called "rock-steady," this earliest form of ska is still celebrated in much of the Toasters' sound, while mixed with the more hard-edged punk ska more common on the West Coast.
Fronted by singer Rob Hingley (affectionately called "Bucket" for no obvious reasons), the seven Toasters are busy representing what their music stands for even beyond their own performance. Founders of the highly-respected genre-specific label, Moon Ska NYC, the Toasters can be incidentally - the Scofflaws.
Speaking of, the Scofflaws are not too shabby themselves. Like the Toasters, the Scofflaws pay homage to the traditional '60s ska style, a la Skatalites, placing emphasis on brass and the smooth, sometimes jazzy sounds of easy 1-2 rhythms. The Scofflaws are fronted by Richard "Sammy" Brooks, who began the now-internationally known band nearly nine years ago. The line-up has varied over the years (the same is true with the Toasters), but the concept of great, raw, live ska has stuck througout the Scofflaws career.
A recent live Scofflaws recording, part of a five-album set to be released in staggers over the next year, captures some of the genuinity of the band's stage prescence, but it hardly suffices to what a predictably huge crowd will have the chance to witness during tomorrow night's performance. And what's not to be excited about, with eight deeply passionate ska artists on stage, belting out the beats the best they know how?
In costume or not, Obies best grab their checkered suspenders and wing-tips for tomorrow night's big show. The fact that even one huge icon in the ska genre is making the treck to our little, liberal mid-western island is a rarity; two giants of the scene in one night is almost too good to be true.
The Toasters and the Scofflaws play the 'Sco Saturday, Nov. 1 at 10 p.m. Admission is $5 with OC I.D., others $8.
Pickitup: Despite their cold, hard stares, The Toasters promise feel-good ska come Saturday. Billed with the Scofflaws, the 'Sco gears up for a rock-steady weekend. (photo by Moon Ska NYC)
Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 126, Number 7, October 31, 1997
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