Chris Murray - Chris Murray played acoustic guitar and sang for two sets prior to each band tonight. Then, he took his turn as a rhythm guitarist for the English Beat, giving him about the longest workrate I have seen from someone this year. His two sets comprised about 12 songs or so that all had a folk/reggae/ska sound, although obviously simple and stripped down. He did requests and a fairly rabid fan base up front obliged. Simple likable music that did what it needed to do.
Bad Manners - Buster Bloodvessel brings his ska band to the US shores for a rare set of shows. He is the only original member of this band that was formed at the height of the two-tone ska craze in England during the punk years. According to their official site, he has certainly lived up to his name by getting banned from television appearances in two countries. Singing to blow-up dolls and pouring baked beans on your head sounds borderline, but mooning the audience on a television show that the Pope was supposedly watching does sound like a more worthy offense than wardrobe malfunction. Anyway, tonight he is the only original member, fronting a band with bass, guitar, drums, keyboards, saxophone, trumpet and trombone. Classic ska sounds throughout and there was plenty of energy on stage and in the crowd. They got people jumping and it was fun to see a pogo dancing crowd, which really goes back a long ways. Mostly their songs and a dance crazed version of "Woolly Bully" comprised their set. Good fun and the singer seems legit as the looney at the pub. He was hanging around in front of the club at the show's end, chattering away with people. Good show.
The English Beat - And we have an even bigger band from the original British ska era, also with one original member, vocalist/guitarist David Wakeling. He has reformed the band out of Los Angeles where he now resides, and has been touring pretty hard in recent years. Although not quite as big as the Specials or Madness, this band had a solid following and had a nice approach with ska songs and a few rockers. That was evident tonight as a couple of songs really rocked hard, while most others moved around from very dancy to pop to some sort of combination. He had less brass than Bad Manners with only a sax which was used 75% of the time. It was a bit more guitar driven, although bass and drums really carry the ska songs. "Click Click" even had a Pogues undercurrent working and was a highlight. But the song I recall playing on my radio show (1979-1980 in Dayton Ohio) which closed the show was "Mirror in the Bathroom". It is still one of the finest songs from that era. Amazingly, this song brought them to the two-hour mark and with all the other music, this was one jam-packed high-value show tonight. The crowd kept the energy mostly, although a few filed out early--happy, but exhausted most likely. At least that is how I would describe myself.
No love for vuvuzelas - From Wakeling after making some odd noises, "Well that's better than those fucking trumpets at the World Cup".