The Toasters resurrect ska at Oddbody’s

By Gary Spencer

Photo: (l-r) Rich Graiko, Thad Merritt, Robert ‘Bucket’ Hingley, The Basement, and Logan Labarbera; photo: Stacy McReynolds

Ska music has a long, rich history. Originating in Jamaica during the 1950s, the musical style fused elements of Caribbean dancehall music and calypso with American R&B and jazz, and was the forefather of what would later be known as reggae. Most music scholars divide the history of ska into three primary periods: the original Jamaican scene which peaked in the 1960s; the British “2 tone” revival in the mid to late 1970s; and then what is known as the third wave, which saw the emergence of ska bands from several different countries, including the United States, beginning in the 1980s and peaking in the mid-90s.

One of the most popular and influential of the third wave bands was a New York City-based band named The Toasters. The band is the brainchild of Robert “Bucket” Hingley, an Englishman who moved to the States in 1980 and brought with him his love of ska music.

“I bought my first ska record in 1964,” Hingley says. “Ska music was very upbeat, vibrant, and positive. So, I got into it then and rode the genre through ‘rocksteady’ [a branch of ska that started in Jamaica in the ’60s] and then the 2 tone movement – my favorite era.”

With his passion for ska, Hingley formed The Toasters a year later. Playing their first show in 1981 opening for Bad Brains, The Toasters spent their formative years slowly building a following and breeding an audience for 2 tone-influenced ska in the U.S.

“I was surprised to find that the genre was relatively unknown in the U.S.,” Hingley explains. “It took quite a while to get the scene off the ground here but by the mid-80s the network was in full swing in NYC, Boston, Chicago, and L.A.”

Despite the burgeoning popularity of ska, The Toasters found themselves without a means to get recorded music out to the public, so around this time, Hingley founded Moon SKA Records, keeping with the DIY spirit of many underground artists of the time. Subsequently, The Toasters put themselves on the ska map with the release of their debut album in 1987 entitled Skaboom!. The group would then go on to release some of the genre’s most popular and influential albums, including This Gun For Hire, New York Fever, and Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down. In addition to releasing The Toasters records, Moon SKA would soon become worldwide tastemakers during the early 1990s, releasing records by some of modern ska’s most popular artists, including The Skalars, Hepcat, Dance Hall Crashers, and Mustard Plug.

By the mid-1990s, the popularity of ska had hit an all time high, with bands like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones getting mainstream radio airplay and the 1993 Skavoovie tour featuring The Skatalites, The Selecter, The Special Beat, and The Toasters becoming one of the top grossing tours of the year. Despite all the success for ska music, Hingley foresaw the dropping of the other shoe and decided to fold the Moon SKA label at the turn of the millennium.

“The ’90s saw the big explosion in popularity – but with the focus often on the wrong bands who steered the music away from the roots, sometimes unrecognizably and in the wrong direction,” Hingley says. “We had to fold in 2000 because the bandwagon had gone off the rails with all the phony fake bands and labels jumping onto it. We decided to quit whilst we were ahead. The whole shebang collapsed at around that time.”

And indeed it did. Ska music has once again become a somewhat underground genre for everyone outside of the diehards, but Hingley says the music isn’t obsolete by any means.

“People who say that really have no concept of the continuum,” Hingley explains. “It will be back with a new face sooner or later and will pop up above the radar with another reinvention just as it has done half a dozen times before. Just because people don’t see it in the mainstream doesn’t mean it isn’t here. Trust me, it will be back, and whether the sheeple pay attention or not, we will have to wait and see.”

In the meantime, The Toasters continue to tour the world over and have played over 6,000 shows to date. The band is coming back to Dayton Wednesday, Sept. 21 in celebration of its 35th anniversary, and Hingley says the band is still true to their roots in putting on a show for old school fans while leaving ska newbies happy and fulfilled.

“I’m thankful that the tunes still hold meaning for a new generation,” Hingley says, “and that we can continue to fill the calendar with 225-plus shows a year after all this time.”

The Toasters perform Wednesday, Sept. 21 at Oddbody’s Music Room, 5418 Burkhardt Rd. in Dayton. The Raging Nathans and Team Void are also on the bill. Tickets are $8 in advance for patrons 18 and over. Doors open at 7 p.m., and show starts at 7:30. For more information, please visit TheToasters.Band.

 

Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

 

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Gary Spencer
Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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