Last night, I saw the Toasters live in concert for the first time since the weekend before 9/11, when they played the Wetlands with the Scofflaws. For someone who enjoys ska as much as I do and thinks the Toasters are a better live than studio band, it is quite surprising that I hadn't seen them in nearly 12 and a half years.
Fortunately, the Toasters still tour and last night performed at the Stanhope House with a bunch of local ska bands. In my youth, I would show up to every show when the music started, even if I had no desire to see all of the bands. It was the principle of getting my money's worth. Fortunately, as I've aged, I learned that time is more valuable than money and left at 7 PM for a 7 PM start time, knowing I had an hour drive ahead of me. Of course, the Stanhope House is not the easiest place to find, as it is along the only road off 183 without a stoplight, leading me to drive past the street a conservative six or so times. I finally arrived at 8:30, bought a ticket and walked inside.
This is where it hit me. I'm at an all ages show and unlike in my youth where I loved all ages shows, there is a certain moment where as an adult, an all ages show, where I feel somewhat out of place. The center of the room is dominated by the pit, filled with people half my age and I did have the darnedest time finding the bar, which was through the pit. Also, the ceilings at the Stanhope House are eight feet tall, which is fairly low for an arena for watching shows, but a good band can project beyond this issue. However, I was more committed to seeing the Toasters and living life, so this awkwardness passed in about five seconds.
There was a local band on stage, who can best be described as a generic ska band, complete with the fat kid playing some kind of horn wearing a Real Big Fish shirt. In fact, all of the opening acts can be summed up as the generic local ska bands. They are all influenced by Real Big Fish or Less Than Jake, they play a set full of covers, which last night included a Real Big Fish cover, Astro Zombies by the Mistfits and a Less Than Jake cover. It could've been a New Jersey ska show from 15 years ago without changing a thing. Which is always the problem with ska, it's pretty easy to get a few friends together from high school band, but for ever opening act I've seen at a show like this which was great, (Tri-State Conspiracy, who sadly broke up last year), I've seen a hundred bands that were interchangeable.
But that's the reality of a ska show, most of the youth were happy, since they likely knew someone in one of the bands and there was a fairly decent crowd of 250 people at the show. It was nice to see Bucket working his merchandise table. I ended up buying Live at CBGB's and the two-disc European version of Live in London, which Bucket pointed out with great importance comes with a poster that my twenty-year old self would have enjoyed. Being 35, I was just happy to get Decision at Midnight live on a new CD, but it is important to support the acts you want to see again.
The Toasters put on a great performance. They started with a song I wasn't familiar with, but quickly moving into Shocker and I'm Running Right Through the World got the crowd going. What's interesting is the Toasters as a band is basically Bucket and a revolving cast of musicians. In fact, last night, he was probably performing with a different band than he played with on Friday night. But the songs remained timeless and the circle pit was filled with people skanking.
I won't lie, when they played Weekend in LA, my arm was propelling my fist toward the ceiling on the double chorus of LA like most of the crowd, which is one of those life-affirming things you do at the show. I did skip the circle pit, which I swore off after almost getting knocked down by a cyclone of humanity seeing Pennywise at the Warped Tour a forever ago.
I hope to see the Toasters again this year, as I attempt to see 10 shows in a year, which would be the most for me since my college days, but with one down, I'm super excited to keep going to shows, since they really are full of energy and passion, which are often missing from most events in our lives.