Ska has a long lineage of excellent music predating and inspiring sounds that would influence the genres of Reggae and Rocksteady. Most describe it as coming in three waves, the original out of Jamaica in the late 1950’s, the 2 Tone sound out of the U.K. in the 1970’s, and the third wave ska out of the punk scene in the late 1980’s. One of the most iconic bands to put the third wave ska on the map is the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. They were one of the first to explode onto the national level bringing ska back to everyone’s attention. If you tell me they are in town, then it is a no brainer to go watch them play. This time they came along with the fantastic ska stylings of Los Kung Fu Monkeys and Phoenix’s own Mr. Incommunicado.
In an awesome surprise, Mr. Incommunicado got the chance to open up this stop of the tour. A couple people looked puzzled on my first glance around as the tour was billed with Buster Shuffle. However, it was due to a member of their band ending up hospitalized the day of this show. Thankfully Buster Shuffle looked up and healthy the days following on the tour. The unfortunate situation gave a very special opportunity to Mr. Incommunicado to open up and they took full advantage of it.
Of course, if you have watched them perform their 2 Tone sound before you will know they already have a great on stage pedigree. Bradford Knight, guitar and lead vocals, does a fantastic job singing and conversing with the audience. That example is just the tip of the iceberg of character of the band. You will find Barton, on bass, and Bradford skanking it up when not attached to a microphone. You have the brass section of Aaron and Dan, moving around to songs such as “Row Your Boat.” Billy, on drums, is one of the happiest, always smiling people you can watch. One thing to note was that tonight, due to the short notice, Dan wasn’t performing. However, their performance was just as energy filled. I am happy to see that Mr. Incommunicado was able to play to a crowd that I know only expanded their fan base.
After them was a band I have had the pleasure to see four times now in the last year, Los Kung Fu Monkeys. They are a ska punk band out of Tijuana. When it comes to crowd engagement and energy, they certainly lead the market. Bang Bang always is pushing the audience to participate. He will end up on that barricade multiple times during a set to personally interact with the audience. It works too, as I don’t know a time that I haven’t seen him get the majority crowd dancing.
The audience members aren’t the only ones moving when Lost Kung Fu Monkeys performs. The entire band is dancing everywhere on that stage with their instruments. Their passion for the music is evident from just watching a song play out live. There was one difference this night from the prior times I have caught them, as their guitarist Carlo couldn’t join on this tour due to appendix surgery. Even so, with a few adjustments to whom played what instrument and a guest they put forth a set like any prior one. I found Los Kung Fu Monkeys later than many, but I love to watch their performances every time I see them.
Last up was a band that hasn’t visited Phoenix in a couple years, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. They sit as one of the most influential ska bands of the last three decades. Right out of the gate you can tell why, as they come out swinging. The figurative meaning of that with their music and physically in the sense of their dance moves. They are probably the most concentration of animation across a single band’s blend of personality. This night that included J.R., of Less than Jake, dressed up in their usual suit outfit on saxophone.
This description barely touching on how superb Dicky Barrett is with a microphone singing, interacting and talking to a crowd. One favorite moment of the night, however, was when Dicky brought kids on stage to dance along. There was one small guy that just stood up there with his arms crossed. He was reluctant to move anywhere. Dicky lead him by hand to center stage while he sang. At one point, he emulated the boy by crossing his arms in the same way between verses.
A standout moment of the hour and a half set they played. It included new songs from the latest album like “Green Bay, Wisconsin” and older classics that really got the crowd moving like “The Rascal King” and “That Impression That I Get.” What I love about this band is that every member gets involved in the performance at some point. It was a magical night of music capped by one of the best performances I’ve seen from the Bosstones.