Even though I felt like I still smelled like diet rootbeer Faygo and was still trying to get the stickiness out of my hair from the Insane Clown Posse show, my concert grind stops for nothing so after one more shower and a quick nap after work, I found myself heading downtown to First Avenue. The city was alive with lights and sounds all around me. It’s almost magical how the downtown area wakes up at the first taste of summer and I truly love it. There’s just something in the air. An excited atmosphere, people out on the town after being cooped up inside for months on end– it was the perfect setting for what was a perfect show.
London based L.A. Salami was the sole opener for the show on Friday night and I was more than excited to finally catch this man perform live again. It was last March when I was intrigued enough by his name and his quirky look to have me stumbling into his show at The 7th Street Entry with my brother. I fell in love with L.A. Salami and his music that night so being able to catch him again was a true treat. Instead of taking the stage with a full band like he had last year, it was just him and a buddy behind some keyboards and a computer. I was a little confused but didn’t lose my sense of excitement.
L.A. Salami’s music seems to have taken a bit of a calmer route over the past year and that’s more than fine with me. I talked last year about how this guy is so much more than just a singer-songwriter with infectious beats– he’s a true story teller with a sense of passion that sweeps you off your feet. The instrumentation behind him may have changed but that aspect has not and I was instantly captivated by his lyrics. The guitar he was strumming away at was quiet which helped me to focus more on his words but also gave the audience more of a chance to talk over his set. Sadly but honestly, the packed crowd was not there to see L.A. Salami perform and therefor seemed to ignore his set. The conversations were roaring and I felt like even L.A. Salami noticed that but it didn’t stop him from pouring his heart on the stage and I absolutely adored that.
The Specials are legendary. No question about it. Celebrating forty years of their influential 2-tone ska music, it was hard not to just stand there staring at the stage and thinking, holy crap– these guys have been doing this for forty years and still have it! Their songs may be from another time but the message is not. Their stance of spreading love, not war, is sadly just as real today as it was back when the band started and that vibe stayed as a prominent overtone throughout the night. From their protest songs to the protest signs lined up against the back of the stage (my favorite one was the one that said “Listen to more Sly and The Family Stone”), there was something very powerful about the set and something very loving about it.
Although some of the band are still some of the original members making them, well, how do I put this nicely… old, there was no shortage of energy on stage. I was a bit nervous when I saw guitarist Lynval Golding get helped onto the stage but, at over 65 years old, not surprised. What did surprise me was the way that as soon as the music started, it was like something changed and he was bursting at the seems with energy. Young bands, take note. Some of the members are The Specials are probably older than your parents and have been doing this for much longer than you have been alive but they still let the music completely take them over. It’s a magical thing and something that I will never get sick of writing about because even just thinking about it brings a giant smile to my face. Don’t let that passion for music die. Don’t let the energy falter. Every single member of The Specials last night clearly still have the spark, that passion, and it was felt throughout the audience.
Their over twenty song set did a great job of spanning this group’s impressive career. From old songs to new songs and with a couple of covers thrown in here and there, the band had done a great job of picking songs that kept the energy high but also gave the older audience a glimpse into their younger years. Much like The Skatalites show on Tuesday this week (The Specials even threw a Skatalites cover in their set), my favorite thing about the entire night was watching the audience. It didn’t matter how old you were, what scene you came from, or anything else. The Specials made you dance, they made you move, and they made you smile. This world is a pretty ugly place these days but it’s good to know that you can still walk into a ska show and let all of that ugliness be replaced by beauty in a matter of seconds.
This has been a week full of legends from The Skatalites to Insane Clown Posse (okay, that one is questionable) to now The Specials… what an amazing week.