with Step Lively and the Jonny Fives
Fu-Bar, Ft. Lauderdale, FL • June 4, 2000
With an impressively sizable audience on hand, especially considering the allure of a punk fest down the street, Fu-Bar had itself an awfully loud time. Starting things off were the Jonny Fives, an instrumental ska band from Boca whose fans and mothers were in gleeful attendance, cheering on the self-proclaimed “probably last ska band in south Florida.” They were tight and boasted a full sound, but their solos were hardly technical enough to warrant a fully instrumental song entourage. Still, they pulled off a nice rendition of the Skatalites’ “Trip to Mars” and had a charismatic saxophonist/band-speaker, making the Jonny Fives not anything extraordinary, but certainly something enjoyable.
Next was Step Lively, Long Island’s loud, ska-influenced rock band with a smidgen of overly heavy guitar. Their music is fast, often catchy, loaded with distortion, few ska beats, and is backed with 80’s keyboard effects, leaving Step Lively somewhat out of place in the night, but still of distinct quality. And while the band was full of energy and even offered to share a few sob stories, the completely unresponsive crowd made things a bit uneasy.
Finally, after a number of sound board and monitor problems, the Toasters took the stage like a car that just refuses to run out of gas. It’s been about two decades, 53 releases and endless shows since the Toasters first busted the American ska scene open, and these guys – granted, with a mostly-different line-up – are still kicking and screaming. Vocalist Jack Ruby, Jr. was the crowd’s best friend, slapping hands between songs and often requesting a call-and-response from the crowd. The band was as tight as ever and eager to span their career, pulling out everything from “Pool Shark” to “2 Tone Army” to a song about their big-bearded, promiscuous German roadie named Barney, and keeping it consistently strong for an hour and change.
Before the encore, Ruby stood up and semi-preached about the untrustworthiness of politicians, and then brought out the guitarist from Step Lively for a hardcore-esque noise explosion where he had the audience split up and scream at each other in an organized fashion. Then, the band came back for a few more tunes, including a catchy new one called “Sitting on Top of the World.” It’s hard not to be happy with ringing ears after seeing these guys sweat away to squeeze every bit of energy out of their music. Like an infection, the powerful feel-good vibe of the Toasters spread so quickly through the crowd that by the end, it was hard to tell which one was worked up more.