Erin Loves Ska!

Let me just start out by saying that Ska is such a wonderful thing. From the first few seconds of Reel Big Fish that introduced me to Ska in the 4th grade, then falling in love with Gwen Stefani and No Doubt (along with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones) in the 5th grade, to being introduced to Sublime in 8th grade, Less Than Jake my Freshman year of high school…Discovering New Wave 2Tone Ska during high school and various other bands such as the Specials, the Toasters, the English Beat (or just the Beat), The Selecter, Save Farris, the Voodoo Glow Skulls, the Aquabats, Madness, Catch 22 and the like. When I started college, my appreciation for Ska grew after I found even more 3rd wave ska bands, a few more 2Tone ska bands, 1st Wave Jamaican Ska and Christian Ska like Hepcat, Skankin’ Pickle, Toots and the Maytals, Desmond Dekker, Prince Buster, the Skatalites, the Insyderz, the W’s, the Crucified, 5 Iron Frenzy and the OC Supertones. There’s no doubt that I’m a huge fan of Ska and all versions of it, including all 3 “waves” of ska, Dub, Rocksteady and Reggae.

I told Erin that a prerequisite for being my wife was her love and appreciation of ska. She “liked” it okay, until she bought me tickets to see Reel Big Fish with opening acts Streetlight Manifesto and Against All Authority. If you’re going to go to your first Ska show, this was the one to go to. AAA were a hardcore punk band without their trumpet player, but they rocked the house, Streetlight is probably the best all around Ska band currently in existence and Reel Big Fish are gods to the Ska scene. Erin was just as blown away as I was and has since become a regular ska junkie. I love her for this :-)

Aaron Barrett at the Norva

My buddy Doda is also a Ska kid and has been for just as long as me. Also a huge fan of Reel Big Fish, but due to their tremendous lack of shows in this part of the country (driving distance, at least), Doda has not gotten the opportunity to check them out live before. And although he’s already a fan of Ska, his girlfriend had never gotten the pleasure of witnessing the lovely that is a Ska show. We were going to change that and I started it by buying them both tickets to see Reel Big Fish in Nashville with us on Saturday, July 10, 2010 at the Exit / In.

For starters, the Exit / In could be (with the exception of the Hideaway) the smallest venue I’ve ever seen a concert in. Built in 1971, the Exit / In has seen an incredible line up of artist in its lifetime, including the Wailers, Johnny Cash, Hank III, Gwar and MXPX among many, many others. There were several parking lots around the building, most within a block of walking distance, however, we arrived early enough to have the luxury of parking on the street, which even with the parking meters is apparently free on the weekends. It is an age 18 and up facility and they check IDs at the door so there’s no chance of you sharing the front row with a zit faced high school kid. There is also a well stocked and very large bar, and I’ve read the selection and prices are reasonable but we didn’t drink anything so I can’t say one way or the other on this. It was interesting to see tables on the floor, 30 feet away from the stage, as well as a step up to another soft drink / water bar and an area that accommodated merch stands for 2 of the bands. Above was a recently-built balcony that appeared to contain more tables, though during the show most people on the balcony were standing. The only con, but a non-issue, about the venue was the location of a support pole which was situated 15-20 feet from the stage, directly in the middle, forcing the pit to about 3 rows from the front. We were unaffected by the pit, although we were in those first few rows, as the pit was cushioned by about 2-4 rows to our right as well.

Exit / In
Exit / In Marquee
Exit / In Above Door

We were let into the facility around 7:30 and the first band went on at 8:30. The first band, representing Cornelia, Georgia, were called the Taj Motel Trio. From my research prior to the show, I found out that this band has been around for about 10 years and has shared the stage with a ton of big named Ska groups such as the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Mustard Plug and for some weird reason has opened for Bon Jovi at one of his Atlanta shows. Containing guitar, bass, 2 Saxophones, a trumpet, a trombone and drums, the Taj Motel Trio forced out a 30-45 minute Ska riot harder than I’ve seen since Streetlight Manifesto. They ran through songs from their two albums, “Feels the Force” and “Part of the Problem.” In true third wave Ska style, TTMT rocked out some hard, horn-heavy-driven tunes mixed with a steady skanking rhythm underneath fun and catchy lyrics that often made you sing along even though you didn’t know the words. Memorable tunes were “Vader,” “Stop Playing Games,” “Another Drink,” and “OAOAO.” After the show we caught up with TTMT’s lead singer / guitar player Ben Sanders. We spoke briefly on their awesome set, how excited I was to have them playing for my friend and his girlfriend’s first ska show and bought both of their CDs, receiving a free sticker and button (the sticker is now on my blue acoustic that I’ve named Ferris).

Taj Motel Trio Promo
Taj Motel Trio @ Exit / In

Taj Motel Trio playing “Vader.”  This was NOT at our show:

After a brief intermission, Nashville natives The Beat Officers took the stage. From my previous research of their band, I found that they have NOT been together very long, but they appear to have quite a following in Nashville as it seemed a lot of people were singing along to their tunes. With a female lead vocalist, the Beat Officers took off utilizing vocals, guitar, bass, drums, a trumpet and a trombone. Although they haven’t been together long, they certainly know how to work a crowd, forcing circle pits, skanking and moshing all within the same song on more than one occasion. Initially I thought of how cool it would be if they covered some No Doubt songs, but realized they probably purposely do not cover any No Doubt songs for fear of being labeled No Doubt copycats. Their lead singer, Dani Casler, is extremely beautiful, however, which balanced out the annoying big mouth of their Trumpet player, Ben Altom. The highlight of their show was the almost Dub style cover of “Sitting On the Dock of the Bay.” Other highlights were “This Ain’t Rome” and “Low Hopes.” On a non-show note about this band, their singer’s brother came all the way from Chicago to see the show and he had lots of nice words to say about my Ska tattoos while we stood in line outside the venue prior to the show :-)

The Beat Officers Promo
The Beat Officers @ the Exit / In

The Beat Officers performing “Sitting On the Dock of the Bay” at the Exit / In.  This WAS at our show:

Already a pile of stinky sweaty bodies, the heat rose even more when Reel Big Fish finally took the stage just after 10:00. I love how RBF starts their set with their “big hit from the 90s” “Sell Out” instead of waiting until the end. Especially when it comes to bands I know and love, I absolutely love not being able to tell when a show is going to be over, that song being the key to letting you know they’re finished. Actually, after the fist song, Aaron let everyone know they were a great audience by thanking us, telling us goodnight and walking off stage. Altogether, RBF played nearly 1 1/2 hours, covering all of their classics like “She Has a Girlfriend Now,” “Everything Sucks” and “S.R.” and “Beer,” both of which were used as the encore songs, as well as lesser known classics like “You Don’t Know,” new songs like “Another FU Song” (part of encore as well), and “The New Version of You.” The highlight of the show, in my opinion, was when they brought out the classic ska song “Monkey Man” made famous by Toots and the Maytals, and later by the Specials among others. Reel Big Fish’s normal hilarity took the show over as usual as they bounced between old and new material seamlessly and got the crowd wilder than I remember them being in Norfolk, VA at the Norva. By the end of their set, the moshing was kept to a minimum, I think it was because it felt like it was 150 degrees in the building and I was worn out just from dancing. Another job well done by the current leaders and masters of Ska, Reel Big Fish.

Little Johnny Christmas of RBF

RBF Playing “Olé, Olé, Olé” and “Another FU Song” for the encore of our show.

In conclusion, everyone knew Erin and I would enjoy the show, Doda really enjoyed it and although she hasn’t fully admitted it yet, Leslie was impressed and had the time of her life, I’m sure of it, it just hasn’t sank in yet. Either that or she’s having a hard time expressing it. We’ll find out over the next few weeks if she snatches a RBF CD from Doda or they show up on her iPod. :-)


Enjoy today’s haiku:

Already today
I’ve done more work than I have
In at least a week

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