SHOW REVIEW: Ska Against Racism TOUR
March 28, 1998--Roseland (Portland, Oregon)
By: Alex Steininger
Starting promptly at five, Eugene, Oregon's The Varicoasters took the stage. With a newly released CD in their pocket, this was the perfect forum for these guys to show their stuff. With only twenty minutes available to them, they made the best of what time they had. Right from the get go they poured out their third wave ska, most of it with a punk rock twist. Even though the crowd was still rolling in, these guys put on a show. The lead singer's rough vocals gave the music a harsh edge, while the horns leant a lighter side to the music. Seeming like only ten minutes, their set was already over. Too bad, because these guys were definitely one of the hottest bands of the night.
One of my other favorites for the night was Mike "Bruce Lee" Park. Mixing Skankin' Pickle material in with the Bruce Lee Band material, he really got the crowd going. Backing him up was none other than MU330! Together they made the perfect team. While the horn notes were flying, the guitar was hot. Fast and wicked, it kept pulling at the crowds feet until they started to dance. Slowly, the crowd began to dance. People were still coming in by the hordes, so there was plenty of room on the dance floor for everyone to move to the music. Mike even took some time out of the short set to talk about racism. That got the crowd roaring, and with all that energy soaring in the club, he busted into another number that made a majority of the crowd dance. With Gerry on horns, he appropriately played "Gerry" off the Bruce Lee Bands' debut/self-titled CD. A few more numbers, and what do you know, their set was over. I would have liked to see a lot more of them, especially since this was his second show in almost two years (the other being the first night of the Ska Against Racism tour.)
Next up came the Japanese ska-punker's known as Kemuri. Their fast and powerful cross-pollination of ska and punk was well accepted by the crowd, as they blasted through a handful of numbers off their debut CD on Roadrunner Records, LITTLE PLAYMATE. But once again, just as the crowd began to get into them, their set came to a close.
Then came MU330, this time with Mike Park on saxophone. Since they backed him up on his set, and since he loves to play live so much, he decided to join them and help fill out their horn section. With the extra horn, their fast rock music, with ska thrown in all over the place, was that much better. They kept the crowd on their toes, as they jumped between old and new material, including "Stuff" and "Hoosier Love" off their first CD, PRESS. They also played a nice selection of material off their new CD, CRAB RANGOON, including "Tune Me Out" and "Neighbor." But like the bands before them, after their twenty minutes were up they had to rush off the stage. I was getting really pissed with that, because I would have liked to see more of these bands, but understanding the time restraints due to seven bands sharing the stage in one night (and the fact that they had to be out of there by 12:30am to head to San Francisco) I swallowed it and waiting for the Blue Meanies to take the stage.
The Blue Meanies hit the stage and stunned everyone by playing a brand new song. Instead of their normal blend of punk/rock/ska/jazz and more rock, this new song was pure ska, easy to dance too and everything. But of course, it wouldn't be the Blue Meanies without a twist...so of course they threw in a twist to liven everything up, as only they can! They continued to fill the club with music, as the guitar screamed out of the P.A. With a twenty-five minute set on their hands, they were able to play a few more songs. But for some reason I wasn't able to stand up close to the stage, so I made my way to the back of the room. The show was just too loud! These guys are great musicians, and very talented, but for some reason the only thing my ears were picking up was the screech of the guitar. So once I made it to the back of the club I was able to enjoy the band a little more. They put on a great show, and it was nice to see them cover material from their new album, as well as their first EP, PAVE THE WORLD.
But now it was time for a real treat, the Toasters. And with real time on their hands too...45 minutes! These guys definitely stole the show. Jumping and running around on stage, these guys got the crowd sweating and dancing up a storm. Nobody could resist the third wave ska pioneers set. Everyone watched in amazement as these guys showed everyone how it was done. Jumping through numbers off their extensive collection of releases, they also played such numbers as "Don't Let The Bastards Grind You Down," "Fire In My Soul," and "Weekend in L.A." off their latest release. With a sharp horn section, a rhythm section that was right on the mark, and lead singers who controlled the stage with ease, this was definitely the highlight of the tour. The band even allowed many people to get up on stage and dance with them. Nobody was disappointed. Definitely a crowd pleaser, I (as well as the rest of the crowd) could only hope for more. But with the tour on a strict schedule, it didn't happen.
None the less, Less Than Jake came on and closed out a terrific night of ska with their punk-ska blend. Imagine exploding confetti, a manic clown on stage (who even jumped 15 feet from the balcony into the crowd), and a gun that toilet papered the crowd. This was what Less Than Jake brings live, and boy is it fun! Their music was good, but the live spectacle was terrific. As the drums pounded ferociously, their tour manager fed off it's energy and threw free stuff into the crowd. This was fueling up the crowd, as they got more intense after each song. And with the clown doing his thing, the eye candy was sweet. After their fifty-five minute set came to a close, everyone was drenched with sweat and too tired to stand.
Walking out of the club, everyone came out happy. I thought many of the bands I wanted to see set's were too short, but after seven bands I finally realized that if there was any more bands to go on, I would have just slowly faded into a sleep, because the show had beaten all the energy out of me. If and when this tour hits your town, check it out! You'll be glad you did.