with the Skalars and King 7 & the Soulsonics
The Viper Room, Ft. Lauderdale • 5.22.98
Not more than three weeks ago, the Squeeze, a nine-year staple of South Florida’s music scene, took an abrupt hiatus from existence. Yet with such a talent-packed bill as this coming down, the show, as they say, must go on. Thus, us loyal patrons of the ska scene were introduced to the Viper Room, a “booty club” complete with mirrored walls and a disco ball. As I walked into the place I began having fears of being stuck within a suspended metal cage as “Come on Ride That Train” blasted out of the speakers. Those fears quickly subsided, however, as South Florida’s own pride and joy, King 7 and the Soulsonics, took to the stage.
King 7, back after a 2-person line-up change, introduced themselves and quickly jumped into “Primetime Ska,” as a small group of about ten of us watched on from the floor. As the band went on, the crowd quickly grew, and by the time King 7 played their well-known “Rudeboy Invasion,” they had successfully gotten the Viper Room and its inhabitants hopping. This band is by far one of the most talented bands ever to be spawned from the swamps of Florida. It’s always a pleasure watching their musicianship foster, as T (as he prefers to be called), percussionist and lead vocalist, marched around with his slow-motion poses and what I can only describe as “kung-fu bongos.” By the time the band left the stage, closing with “Alpha 66,” the crowd was as warmed up as they’d ever be.
Next to take the stage were the Skalars, who were making their first South Florida appearance without their original namesake, Isaac Green, who felt he would be more useful as their manager, and now resides in New York, doing just that. Isaac’s inventive dance moves and stage presence were hardly missed, as the duo vocalist/horn section of Jessica Butler and Evan Shaw pranced around the stage, providing for one of the most energetic sets I’ve seen in a long time. The set was surprisingly new, however, as the Skalars performed a mere four songs from their album Skoolin’ with the Skalars. The rest served as somewhat of a preview of their upcoming album slated for this fall, which, as the show was an indication of, will certainly evade the “sophomore jinx.” After making the crowd sweat for a good 45 minutes, the Skalars said goodnight and launched into “Zero,” a power-packed number they promise will appear on their next album.
After what was probably the quickest equipment change I’ve ever seen (because Big Booty Night can’t wait for ska), The Stubborn All-Stars introduced themselves and launched into the up-tempo, bluesy “Catch That Train.” I had never had the pleasure of seeing these boys before, but what I saw was nothing less than what I would have come to expect after listening to their two albums. Jeff “Django” Baker’s smooth vocals (and seeming inability to put down a beer bottle — he cradled one for more than half the show), and the entire band’s musicianship, from the horn section that between lines provides melodic background singing to the impressive guitar solos, made the All-Stars an absolute pleasure to watch and hear. Their set was pretty well split between their two albums, playing sing-along favorites like “Pick Yourself Up” and “Because of You.” Included along the way were “Selling Out Your Future” and “She Said,” covers of The Selecter and The Beatles, respectively. After an impressive fifteen songs, Django took the mike and started DJ-hunting with “Open Season,” leading into the song I was waiting all night to hear, “Tin Spam.” Midway through, Django handed the mike out into the crowd and let the masses take over vocal responsibilities, until the song wrapped itself up and the All-Stars had to say goodnight.
In recent times, South Florida has been aimlessly tossing its shows around as each ska-supporting club closes down. The Viper Room, albeit a last-minute decision, had certainly seen more musicianship tonight than they probably had in their entire history. I’d hope that the scene here will finally find a permanent home, for fear that the shows just might stop coming down. Because for a show as magnificent as the one I just attended, I’d stand out in the street.