Halfway through The Mighty Mighty Bosstones set at the Regent in Los Angeles, California, vocalist Dicky Barrett boasted that the band had booked two “new” ska bands as openers for the gig from two different countries- Mexico and the U.K. He went on to remark that we are now entering a “Fourth Wave of Ska Music.” This follow up commentary begged two questions: the first being whether or not we truly experiencing a “Fourth Wave” and, secondly, if so, is this something we should be celebrating?
“The Fourth Wave of Ska” is indeed a terminology which is beginning to be thrown around lately. In fact, Angel City Records recently released a compilation of 24 current ska groups titled “Birth Of the Fourth Wave of Ska,” with a heavy emphasis on bands who pay homage to the soul, R&B, and Motown roots of the First Wave of ska born in the 60’s in Jamaica. If the Fourth Wave is to be defined by a return to ska’s 60’s roots, neither of the Bosstones’ opening bands would truly fit into the category. Mexico’s Los Kung Fu Monkeys would not only be disqualified by the fact that they have been playing for over ten years, but also by the fact that their music appears to be influenced by 90’s punk and 80’s new wave.
While East London’s Buster Shuffle are fairly phenomenal, their cues seem to be taken from early Madness and 70’s pub rock. This is not to say that Shuffle should not be celebrated for their music, but simply to say that the verdict is still out on how any Fourth Wave would distinguish or define itself in 2018.
It is hard to blame the Toasters, The Untouchables or even the Bosstones for the musical crimes against humanity perpetrated by Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish. However, if we are truly entering a Fourth Wave, the first thing we should celebrate is putting more nails in the coffin of the Third Wave. The 20 years following the Third Wave of ska entering the mainstream have created a pretty ugly and embarrassing scene. After all, if there is nothing cooler than a room full of well dressed skinheads and rude boys dancing their asses off to traditional ska, there are also few things more unattractive than a room full of dudes in Hawaiian shirts trying to start a circle pit to a pop punk band with a horn section.
After some shameless bashing of the Third Wave, it needs to be said that the Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ classic material has held up surprisingly well upon review. The band was celebrating the 21st anniversary of “Let’s Face It,” by playing the album front to back at the Regent in Los Angeles. For an album that is not only old enough to buy a drink at the bar, but was also a contemporary of many mainstream punk records that did not age as well, “Let’s Face It” still burns pretty hot.
“Let’s Face It” was a breakout album of sorts. While the Bosstones had already been in heavy rotation on hipper alternative radio station and had played both Lollapalooza and a tour with Aerosmith, “Let’s Face It” showed the band transitioning to heavy rotation on MTV, mainstream radio, and teen movie soundtracks.
While many of the songs from “Let’s Face It” have remained staples of the band’s live performances, this was a somewhat rare occasion to see the band play deeper album cuts like “Numbered Days,” “Nevermind Me,” and “That Bug Bit Me.” The occasion was made more momentous by the addition of original Bosstones axe man Nate Albert joining the band for “The Impression That I Get.”
Remarkably, the band still features four other members who played on “Let’s Face It,” including Street Dogs drummer Joe Sirois- five if we assume that the band’s dancer, Ben Carr was skanking in the studio with them. Aside from the songs standing the test of time on their own, the band also managed to perform them with energy and urgency.
After playing the album from start to finish, the Bosstones continued their set with hits and fan favorites, such as “Someday I Suppose,” “Hell of a Hat,” and covers of “Simmer Down” and “I Can See Clearly.” “Where Did You Go?” was notably missing.
The band’s encore was kicked off with a scorching rendition of “Old School Of the Bright.” Though visibly drenched in their own sweat, the band soldiered on through two more songs before calling it a night.
Aside from being the birth of the so-called Fourth Wave, the Summer of 2018 is being called by some (including Mr. Barrett) the Summer of Ska. Here in Southern California, this has already included notable performances by The Specials and the Bosstones, and will continue on with appearances by both versions of the English Beat, the Selecter, Bad Manners, reggae legends, Derrick Morgan, Pat Kelly and Toots and the Maytals. For those interested in checking out new music, The Capsouls, Steady 45’s, Buster Shuffle, Champions Inc, and Jackie Mendez are all worth giving a listen to.
Words by: Ditch