There’s nothing like a ska show. They are the type of shows where, even without alcohol pumping through your veins, you can’t help but dance around like an idiot. The feeling you get in the audience of a ska show is unlike any other show and that’s why, even with a giant metal show going on in Saint Paul and a sold out Hippo Campus show happening down the street at First Avenue, I chose to go to the Save Ferris show at The Fine Line.
Atlanta based Baby Baby opened up the show and got my night started the right way. Although I wouldn’t quite classify these guys as a ska band, their brand of “party music” definitely fit the bill and got the crowd in the right mind frame for the rest of the night. Their music was a little Beastie Boys mixed with Brad Brains and the energy of Andrew W.K. all tied up with a bow of originality. It was fun, fresh, and made you want to dance.
The first thing that struck me about this band musically was the fact that they had a traditional drum kit player (Grant Wallace) and an aux percussion player (Colin Boddy). Colin had an array of small tom drums, a cymbal, and some woodblocks. When I saw the set up, I was a bit worried that the percussion would overpower the other two members but quickly learned that these guys know damn well what they’re doing and they had the perfect balance between all of the instruments. Singer/ guitarist Fontez Brooks had a raw element to his voice as he sang through the set but it still came across as poppy. It wasn’t hard, it wasn’t aggressive, it was raw and beautiful. The upbeat dance music mixed with the raw vocals truly made for a unique sound.
Fontez had a personality that shined throughout their “contractually obligated” 30 minute set. He joked with the crowd between almost every song and ended up feeling like the best friend you had never met. “We are going to make history tonight!” explained Fontez. “We are going to sell out of merch!” I couldn’t help but chuckle. I mean, these guys were amazing but the older crowd I was lost in didn’t seem to be the merch buying type. Fontez went on to explain, “We have one t-shirt left. Someone buy the fucking shirt!” The crowd erupted into laughter and someone shouted out that they would take it. Throughout the set, all of the members had something funny to say. Some bands that try to be funny come of as scripted and fake but there was nothing fake about these guys. Everything they said seemed genuine and, mixed with the unique and genuine sound, left me with a new favorite band.
As I tried to recover from the amazingness that was Baby Baby, local group Umbrella Bed took the stage and brought their ska sound to the quickly growing crowd. I have to be honest and I feel like an idiot for saying this but, I had never heard of these guys before and I was a bit irked that a local band had gotten a better spot on the bill than Baby Baby. As their set went on, I realized that their brand of ska wasn’t what I was used to.
I took to the internet this morning to figure out why their sounds felt so different than the other bands in the ska world I had listened to and instantly got my question answered. These guys play 2 tone ska. It’s kind of like the grandfather of the ska music that I listen to. 2 tone ska seemed to have a short lifespan for how influential it was but Umbrella Bed has kept it alive since the mid 1990’s. The more I read up on Umbrella Bed, the more I realized that these guys are a huge deal. They have toured the world with the who’s who in the ska scene and have truly left their mark. Now them playing as direct support for a band like Save Ferris made sense.
The stage was filled up by the eight members. They were dancing and having fun throughout their set and the crowd seemed to be mirroring it. As I looked around the crowd, I realized that there wasn’t a face without a smile on it. There really weren’t people singing along, there was no pushing or shoving, it was seriously just people enjoying the upbeat music and having fun being where they were with who they were with. After nearly an hour of music, it was time for Umbrella Bed to get off the stage and make room for the headliner.
Have you seen the movie 10 Things I Hate About You? (Don’t lie and say no, we have all seen it and we all continue to re-watch it.) You know the band that’s playing on the roof of the building at the end? Well, that’s Save Ferris and, even though it seems like people have no clue who I’m talking about when I say “Save Ferris” but instantly know when I call them the “10 Things I Hate About You band”, being able to see these guys live last night was truly a bucket list item for me.
After a long hiatus, Save Ferris recently released their first album in seventeen years and, with that, came a tour. I was more than happy to see they had a MN date as I truly didn’t think I’d ever get to see them live after them being dormant for so long. They didn’t disappoint and it seemed as if, even after all of these years, they hadn’t changed. Iconic front woman Monique Powell had the exact sassy energy that I wanted and the music sounded just like I remembered it.The upbeat ska sounds rang through the packed venue. The crowd was dancing and visibly just loving life. It was clear that the crowd, like myself, was more than excited to get the chance to see such a legendary band.
Monique may have stolen the spotlight from the rest of the band just due to the energy and sassiness that she exhibits but there was no denying that Save Ferris would be nothing without the talent in the band. All of the band members had a sense of energy about them that sometimes can get lost when you have such a vivacious singer. The band played through both old and new songs and it was clear to tell that these guys never forgot where they came from.
There were multiple shows I could have gone to last night and, like every other night, having to chose one was almost heartbreaking in a way. I’m glad I chose the one I did because last night was truly a fun freaking show.