The Specials make the Austrian dance at First Avenue


As Trampled by Turtles closed out Festival Palomino, First Avenue’s Mainroom got ready for more lively fare. Ska was back in town and if there is one defining band that been carrying Ska’s battle flag for decades (there are quite a few) it’s the Specials whose North American tour stopped in Minneapolis for the night.

Opening was Brooklyn’s The Far East a modern ska band with deep roots in their punk youth. Maddie Ruthless, Matt Burdi, Chris Philippone, Mike Sarason, and Matt Kursmark make up the band that has been around since 2013. Their lively set showed classic a classic ska foundation blended with other influences. Overall a very cool band playing a great set.
Set List: Far East Ride / Disco / Chinga Ming / Warning / Betrayer / MI6 / Rain on my Party / Youthman / Bad Breakup / Confessions / Magic Moments / War?

Founded in 1977 The Specials became part of a lively UK Ska scenes and after a number of lineup changes, breakups and reunions feature 3 of their original members Lynval Golding, Horace Panter, and Terry Hall. First Avenue was packed with tons of black and white outfits and soccer jerseys. The Specials started their set with “Ghost Town” and caught me off guard.
I was a bit of a Ska Head in my youth (cruising through Austria on my buddie’s Vespa scooter). The Specials and Madness were on my Walkman all the time, but I never had a chance to see either of them live. So when their show was announced the same day as Palomino I was sad, then Palomino moved to Hall’s Island and as soon as the set times were announced and I knew I could make it I jumped at the chance. I was exhausted when I entered First Ave. But a few bars in, I found myself in the photo pit, a grin on my face, energized and my feed shuffling along to the ska beat.
The Specials live are an experience. Ska music just steps up the energy level live and the band delivered it masterfully. Golding is the showman of the group with jumps, playing at the edge of the stage and working the crowd. Ska has always been a political movement and Golding was not afraid to voice support for Black and Native American Lives Matter movements. A funny moment was when in response to the staff member selling water and beer in the audience they tossed water bottles off the stage and asked for money to be passed back to the stage.
The set picked up speed and the encore became a giant ska fest. An incredible show and experience, not tainted the least bit by yours truly being a bit of a fan boy :).

Set List: Ghost Town / Do Nothing / Friday Night, Saturday Morning / Stereotype / Man at C&A / Blank Expression / Rat Race / Hey Little Rich Girl / Why? / Doesn’t Make It Alright / Nite Klub / (Dawning of a) New Era / Do the Dog / Gangsters / It’s Up to You / Concrete Jungle / A Message to You, Rudy / Monkey Man / Little Bitch / Too Much Too Young Encore: Guns of Navarone / Enjoy Yourself / You’re Wondering Now