The powerful storms that had been slamming the Twin Cities since rush hour (how convenient, right?) seemed to break as I walked out of my apartment and to my car. It was like a sign that I was meant to go to last night’s show but I didn’t need a sign. I was about to see a legendary group that I honestly never thought I would ever get a chance to see and there was no rain, wind or hail that was going to stop me. I was bright eyed and bushy tailed as I parked my car, walked through the light rain and into the beautiful Cedar Cultural Center. After the volunteer working the door struggled to find a spot to stamp my wrist due to all of my tattoos and we had a chuckle about it, I was in and ready to finally catch the one and only Skatalites.
Before I could relish in the legendary sounds of The Skatalites, I had the honor of catching local band The Prizefighters. The Prizefighters are one of those bands where I’ve seen their name a million times before but have just never had the chance to catch them live. Well, last night was my chance and I will definitely be keeping a closer eye on their calendar for upcoming shows. I honestly don’t know if there’s a huge reggae/ska scene locally but from Space Monkey Mafia to, now, The Prizefighters, the amount of talent in this city when it comes to this scene truly has me floored. The Prizefighters’ sound was the perfect blend of reggae and ska. Although majority of the songs they played in their forty minute set leaned towards the rocksteady style (rocksteady came after ska and before reggae and has this really cool chill yet dancey vibe to it), it was clear as day that these guys can do a little bit of everything. This six piece is about to embark on a summer tour and I can’t wait to see what that does for them. I have high expectation and, after seeing them live finally, I know that they will surpass said expectations with ease.
After a quick set change, it was time for the one and only Skatalites to take the stage and to say I was excited would be an understatement. Being a band for ten years is a feat. When I see bands I used to listen to as a child announce fifteen year anniversary tours I’m typically shocked. The Skatalites have been a band for fifty-five years. Do I really need to say anything else? One of the biggest (if not the biggest) reasons why we have ska music today, I watched in awe as the members took the stage. Sure, it’s not the same line-up as back when they started (actually majority of the founding members have passed on) but that doesn’t stop this band from having the same sound and vibe that they started with all of those years ago. Having that sense of longevity even with all new band members says everything that needs to be said about the importance of The Skatalites’ sound.
There was something magical in the air. The music of The Skatalites truly spans generations. The range in ages and other demographics was as wide on stage as it was on the dance floor (which took over the entire venue). From old to young, punk to hippie, it didn’t matter what you were into, what you looked like or anything else, The Skatalites’ show was one for you. The music made you move and, as cliche as it is, nobody was safe from that force. Everyone in the hall was dancing with a giant smile on their face. Although majority of the audience had come in pairs or groups, even if you had showed up alone (as I had), you were not dancing alone. I didn’t catch names of anyone that I danced with but the smiles that we shared while spinning around the room was the only salutation that was necessary in that setting.
Although one of the most influential bands in the scene and definitely one of the longest running (although I think The Skatalites take both of those titles with ease), there was something so humble about their performance. No smoke or mirrors, the band just got up there, played their songs with an undeniable sense of passion, and then thanked the audience with an immeasurable sense of gratitude. I see bands that have only been around for months or a couple of years night after night and it’s rare to feel that amount of gratitude radiate from the stage. Seeing a band who has been doing this for nearly twice as long as I have been alive and feeling that thankfulness that they have for the fans and the audience was one of my favorite moments of the night and a feeling that will not soon be forgotten.
With a nearly twenty song set full of originals, covers, and a sense of creativity and love, I was left exhausted but in the best way when it was all said and done. I truly believe that this world would be a more beautiful place if people listened to more music by The Skatalites and bands that were influenced by The Skatalites. There’s just something freeing and downright beautiful about the music and the vibe that the music gives off. You could have been having the worst day ever yesterday but as soon as you stepped into the welcoming venue that is The Cedar and as soon as you heard those infectious beats and saw everyone dancing, any worry or pain that you may have been holding in would have fallen to the wayside.
Never miss a chance to see a legendary band even if it means you have to go alone. I mean, let’s be honest, you’re never actually alone at a show. Let loose and dance with strangers, let your hair down a little bit and just be free. Those couple of hours of freedom can change everything for days on end.