The Skavaganza Tour
featuring Regatta 69, Mobtown, and Rude Squad
The Brass Mug, Tampa • October 25, 1998
I was really excited at the prospect of seeing this tour come through. Mobtown are a fine southern California traditional ska band that had never made it this far east before. They were touring with poppy North Carolinians Regatta 69, and Telegraph, one of the Midwest’s most popular ska-punk acts, so I expected a fun night. The evening was kind of a downer, though. Don’t get me wrong, this had nothing to do with the bands that played — in fact, it was one of the better shows I’ve seen this year. However, it’s really depressing when nationally touring ska acts hit town and less than 15 people pay to get through the door. The Brass Mug was barren. Of course, it doesn’t help that the club did next to nothing to promote the show. Before their set, Regatta 69’s trombonist, Andy, told me they’d sent the club a huge stack of flyers, which they were dismayed to find sitting by the door when they arrived. They didn’t bother to list the date in any of the many (free!) outlets for promoting shows, either (save for The Tampa Tribune, always the ska fan’s first choice for ska news). Why did they even bother to book this show?
Matters weren’t helped by a show from the Slackers across town. While that show was announced at the last minute, at least if the shows hadn’t been the same night, they might have each drawn the entire crowd to both shows, even with such paltry promotion (for the record, the Slackers only drew about 20 people).
Another detracting factor was that Telegraph had to cancel. Apparently, several people turned around without entering when they found out the band didn’t make it. You’re already here, why not enjoy the bands that are here? People, if you don’t support the bands, they’re going to stop coming to town — it’s simple economics. I don’t really mean to focus on the negative when there was so much positive about this show, but it’s really disheartening to see such great bands play their hearts out for next-to-nobody. The joke is really on all of you that didn’t turn out, because you missed one of the finest shows this year. Aside from banter about the lack of a crowd, you wouldn’t have known that there was nobody at the show; Regatta 69 and Mobtown both played like their lives depended on it.
I don’t want to neglect Tampa’s Rude Squad, who were called in at the last minute to replace Telegraph. Unfortunately, I missed almost all of their set, but having seen the band before, I’m confident that they played their usual energetic hybrid of ska, punk, and hip hop, complete with some inventive use of samples. They’re a band to look out for, and had I seen more of their set, I’d have plenty of nice things to say.
First off, I’m pleased to report that Mobtown’s recent line-up shuffle has done nothing to diminish the band’s power. They played a fluid and energetic set largely made up of tunes from their latest album, Cactus Juice. They now have two female vocalists (replacing former frontwoman Amy Long), each with tremendous range and clear pitch, who switch off in the lead vocal spotlight. This meant that songs like “Jump Up,” “Pussycat Love,” and “El Mundo Canta” sounded just as good as ever. In fact, I’d go as far as to say they sounded even better, since the dual vocalists were able to combine their efforts for some really sweet harmonies, something a solo singer just isn’t physically capable of doing live. The band set a steady groove with plenty of skilled instrumental work, including some really sharp percussion and tremendous trombone and trumpet solos. I also liked the way Mobtown played around with the arrangements on some of their older material – for example, shifting the lead on “24th Anniversary” from the horns to a very jazzy lead guitar. Moreover, they really seemed to have a good time playing together, with some silly shouting along on “Liar” and some choice covers (Skatalites, Bob Marley) thrown in for good measure. Rounding out the set with a tasty “Sweet Paradise,” Mobtown left me wanting more.
Regatta 69 were up next, coming on full force with a tight, poppy sound that was nothing short of infectious. This band had it together for this show, with driving bass, airtight percussion, and powerful horns (especially trombonist Andy, whose powerful yet melodic presence reminded me of the Pilfers’ Vinny Nobile). Early highlights included their spot-on cover of Bob Marley’s “Lonesome Track,” complete with chug-chugging drums (and a mid-song break into the Paragons’ “The Tide is High”), a sharp, jazzy “Addicted to Coffee,” and the romantic “Just How Much.” Several members of Mobtown joined in for a rousing rendition of Justin Hinds’ “Rub Up, Push Up,” but what really got the crowd (such as it was) excited was a cover of — believe it or not — Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me,” a great poppy rocksteady version that’s been stuck in my head ever since. The track will be appearing on Too Hep Productions’ upcoming Metalliska compilation, be sure and pick it up.
Regatta closed out the evening with a souped-up version of their signature tune, “Microbus,” and said goodnight to the few people that remained in the club (at this point, mostly the members of the other bands). This was a show that deserved a much larger audience, but neither of the bands shirked the few people that did show up, and the few people that were there really seemed to have a great time. Miss these bands next time they come through at your peril.