with Spring Heeled Jack, The Hi Hats at Mama Kin
by Grant Thayer
The Hi Hats started off the evening and treated the crowd to its (from what I’ve been told) usual set. Although I’m not sure if the swearing at the audience is the same every show. The Hi Hats did little to get the crowd moving up until their cover of “Simmer Down,” which had some people swaying. Their set also featured seven numbers off their new CD Ska Got Soul, as well as a Meditations cover. I must say, this is the first ska band I have ever seen with such a large ratio of females (3) in the band. Their “big hit” of “She’s My” did get people moving, even skanking. I really like their final song, “Just Askin’,” a pretty, poppy, horn-driven, and upbeat number. The sound was okay and the horns were pretty tight, but the performance lacked enthusiasm.
Spring Heeled Jack took the stage and the crowd! From the first bass notes, as the lone bassist strummed and the other members gathered onstage, the energy level gathered momentum. SHJ has emerged as a major player in the ska community, and landing the opening slot for The Toasters tour will give them the exposure they deserve. SHJ easily went from their fast paced Bosstone-ish style to the more poppy “Nervous” (w/ trombone solo) and back again. After a heavy metal appreciation intro, “Pay Some Dues” cranked it up and had band members stage diving. Other songs included “Addicted,” “Freedom” and set closer “Peg Leg Bates” with Bucket from The Toasters on guitar to end an awesome set that kept the crowd bouncing from start to finish.
Since 1983, The Toasters have been a dominant, if not THE dominant force, in American ska. I was worried that I didn’t have any energy left after SHJ, but I immediately caught my second wind for these third wave kings. Jack Ruby, The Toasters’ new singer, was less dancehall-style toasting than his predecessor, Coolie Ranx, and easily filled the void with his deeper, baritone voice and stage charisma. Highlights of the set included several new songs off their sixth CD, Hard Band For Dead, such as opener “Maxwell Smart,” “Secret Agent Man,” and “Don’t Come Running.” Set classics “Shocker,” “Talk Is Cheap,” “Thrill Me Up” and “Weekend In LA” were sprinkled throughout the set. The Spring Heeled Jack horn section augmented the last few songs which culminated in the finale, “Matt Davis.” The funniest thing I ever saw happened after the show; just ask Bucket about his game of spoons in Boston.