Monday, September 19, 2011

What the World Needs Now Is Ska, Sweet Ska…

Posted By on Mon, Sep 19, 2011 at 10:43 AM

Sometimes, music is in your face; overtly opportunistic in communicating social agendas and pointing out how we lack as a society. Ska, typically, is what I call “happy music”, and I mean that in a good way, not sardonically. The beat is high energy, the horns infectious and the lyrics usually pretty tongue-in-cheek and fun. I don’t think of ska as being a genre of music generally set up to advance any social agenda. Saturday night, though, in a very organic way, two of our local ska bands demonstrated perfectly what we should be doing as a community, and it was pretty cool to be there to witness it.

UNRBs Andy Pilcher, Noel Rochford, Jeff Phillips and Dan Smith skank along with the crowd
  • photo by Zach McGee Photography
  • UNRB's Andy Pilcher, Noel Rochford, Jeff Phillips and Dan Smith skank along with the crowd
Local 662 was the scene. UNRB absolutely, hands-down, unequivocally killed their set, followed by an equally outrageous performance by Johnnycakes and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. At 11:30, the third band took the stage.

Charleston, SC’s Tidal Jive promotes itself as a “six-piece funk powerhouse often featuring horns and salsa inspired percussion”. Not ska, per se, but a great compliment to the ska sound. This gig was the end of their tour, though, and their “powerhouse” appeared to be running on fumes… they were down to just three: Spodie Odie on lead vocals and guitar, Chris Shecut on keyboards and sax, and Justin Harper on bass. Their drummer had been called home unexpectedly, and UNRB’s Eric Allaire graciously agreed to sit in on drums. By the time they had set up, the crowd had thinned to a couple dozen, half of which were the previous bands’ members hanging out after their performances.

Always the consummate professionals, Tidal Jive took the stage and Spodie gamely engaged the crowd as best he could, managing to entice a few patrons to wander closer toward the stage. They began to play. They opened with a cover of Bill Withers’ “Use Me". A few bars into the song, UNRB’s Ben Datin and Andy Pilcher eased their way on to the stage with trumpet and trombone in hand. Two bars later, Johnnycakes’ sax and trombone jumped in, too. Each verse, somebody else grabbed the closest instrument at hand and joined in to the melodiousness - UNRB’s Noel Rochford even found a triangle somewhere and wailed on that. By the end of the TWENTY MINUTE cover of “Use Me”, the three original members of Tidal Jive has swelled to twelve, the stage was groaning with the weight of the musical genius and the energy was palpable. It was amazing.

The Tidal Jive & Friends jam set went on, as musicians jumped in and out, as the spirit moved them, for almost two hours. There were less than twenty people in the crowd, but closing your eyes, you’d have been convinced these guys were playing to a crowd of 20,000. Tidal Jive’s “Making Love (To My Guitar)” was inspired. Don't get me wrong; Tidal Jive is no joke. Justin can slap a bass like no other, and Spodie's riffs were staggering. If you were there, you were transported; if you were not, you missed out. (Your loss. Don’t miss the next show. Spodie tells me they will definitely be back. Did I mention it was amazing?)

What, if anything, does this have to do with social agenda and our community as a whole? It occurred to me on the way home that these guys had inadvertently created the perfect alchemy of collaboration and effort to produce perfection. Each of them plays, because they must. It is what they love to do, and they are very good at it. There was no creative ego at play; there was no posturing for attention of limelight. Hell, there was literally no one there to impress and no obligation on their part to do anything. Nevertheless, they all have been or will be the band in from out of town without a fan base. They have all geared up for a show and no one was there. They all know the high of putting on a great show. Moreover, they were all willing and able to jump in together and be a part of a beautiful thing. Can you even imagine how many situations we could improve and how many problems we could solve if we, as a community, approached every interaction in our day with this kind of attitude? If music soothes the savage breast, play on, brothers; play on.

Local 662
Johnnycakes and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse(
Tidal Jive (
Zach McGee Photography

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