The Truth About Music

"What's hot, what's not, and whats next in pop music"

A Winter of Ska in New Haven: A story of two lead singers named Barrett


How often do two bands that have helped to define a genre of music play the same club in the same 30-day period? From my experience the answer is almost never. December and January provided a wealth of opportunity for ska fans in Connecticut to get their skank on at Toad’s Place, a historic rock venue in New Haven. Of course when you think of third wave ska no two groups have been more influential than Reel Big Fish and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, that is what we were all ready for.

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones ended their long hiatus in 2008 to play the “Hometown Throw Down,” a yearly concert series held in and around Boston, Massachusetts. Reports were that tickets on secondary markets were selling for upwards of $1,000 and that this might be a one time shot to see the super group re-unite. A year passed and finally in October of 2008 the band announced that it would once again play the “Throw Down,” which would include a new destination, Toad’s Place. Trombone player Chris Rhodes, a resident of New Haven was insistent about bringing the show to the new destination.

Of course no perfect plan goes off without a few hiccups. On the night of the show, lead singer Dicky Barrett lost his voice, but was able to (with significant help from the crowd) make it through the set and squeeze out some of the classic Bosstones lyrics. The band performed classics such as “Where Do We Go?” and “The Impressions That I Get,” as well as fan favorites “1-2-8.” The show was opened by just one opener, Connecticut based Tip the Van, who coincidently would open for Reel Big Fish on there soon to launch tour.

It had been about a year since most people in attendance had seen Reel Big Fish. Participation in the 2008 Warped Tour had made playing clubs very difficult. It was clear that the band was ready to get back into clubs. Tip the Van, lead by Simone and Nicole Oliva, put on a solid show as the crowd warmed up their vocal cords. It is arguable that just as many people were in attendance to see the second opening act, Streetlight Manifesto. Streetlight was rock solid as usual despite some early sound problems, opening with “We Will Fall Together,” from their 2007 release “Somewhere in the Between.” Among the bands most noteworthy songs is an epic rendition of “Point/Counterpoint,” mixed with “Keasbey Nights,” an over nine minute masterpiece of classic ska.

As the curtain dropped on Streetlight, Reel Big Fish was waiting in the wings and wasted no time hitting the stage with one of their most popular songs, “Trendy.” Aaron Barrett was in all of his glory, sporting a colorful Hawaiian shirt, and Scott Klopfenstein, had grown a full beard to most of the crowd’s surprise. Of course joining them for the second tour was Derek Gibbs, who was touring due to the absence of Matt Wong, who stepped away to help raise his children. The Fish intertwined a collection of old and new playing favorites “Good Thing,” “Slow Down,” and “Don’t Start a Band.” Missing from the set were fan favorites “Alternative Baby,” “S.R.” and “Everything Sucks.”

Paying tribute to Streetlight Manifesto Aaron Barrett said that this was the 280th show with the group to which he stated, “They get better, we get drunker.” Towards the end of the show there was really a who’s who of ska legends onstage. Simone and Nicole returned to the stage to sing “She Has a Girlfriend Now,” and former Reel Big Fish member Tyler Jones (playing that night with Streetlight Manifesto), playing “Cheer Up,” and “Suckers,” alongside his former band mates. Also appearing onstage for a cameo was Chris Rhodes, of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. At one point they were all onstage just having what looked like one hell of a party. They all rocked out to “Where Have you Been,” and after an encore which featured an impromptu performance of “Ole Ole Ole,” they finally closed the show with the classic cover “Take on Me.”

Take it from someone who has seen Reel Big Fish and Streetlight Manifesto a quite a few times, this show had it all, classics that hadn’t been heard in years (“Join the Club”) and some of the best cameo performances I had seen. The winter of 2008/2009 will always be remembered in Connecticut as a time of great ska. It says a lot for Toad’s Place to sell out a ska show in economic times like these, maybe it’s just that people want to hear happy music.

Add A Comment

1 Legacy Comment

  • Comment by katy posted January 27, 2009 at 11:56

    aww this is on buzzine!