Tonight is not the first time I’ve seen The English Beat, and I’m certain it won’t be the last. Last year I covered their gig and I’m sure tonight’s show will not be a disappointment. I arrive at the Depot just in time to catch the Show Me Island set. Getting my hands on a Trader Session IPA thanks to a friend, I find a place to perch myself and check it out.
I’ve been waiting a long time to see Show Me Island, and I can safely say I dig them. Show Me Island represents the best aspects of roots ska while displaying a modern flair. Sure, they have a distinct indie-pop element, but that’s the last thing to consider with this band. The first thing to notice is that they have an energy that doesn’t let up. The second is Show Me Island’s refreshingly mature sound. It’s got the soul of two-tone and catchiness of third wave ska while holding the bullshit. Finally, their vocalist Lauren Hoyt carries a tune that mixes Amy Winehouse and Pauline Black (The Selecter) into something that is wonderfully deep and soulful.
This great musical combination is blasted out beautifully. Their smooth progression through each number gets the audience dancing about—easily gaining the band new converts. After their set I rush to score a free CD from their merch table. It’s evident that this group was very much appreciated and they should be checked out.
The Interrupters are an impressive sight to be seen. They’ve been to Salt Lake City twice before and on those separate occasions they played with Rancid and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Kevin Bivona, Justin Bivona and Jesse Bivona portray a sharp rude boy look, while the lead singer Aimee Interrupter has a distinct punky look and the attitude to match. They launch into a flurry of punk and two tone ska tunes—a mix of gritty Rancid-meets-The Selecter. These guys manage to get the audience moving and grooving to each number, knocking out originals like “White Noise” and “Jenny Drinks” as well of well-known covers like “Too Much Pressure.”
While waiting for The English Beat to take the stage, the audience gets a healthy dose of roots reggae to warm the soul. When the English Beat do appear, the rest of the night goes off with a bang. Once the charismatic Dave Wakeling and the rest of the English Beat rip through their new wave meets ska tunes that a kind of spell has been cast on everyone in the room. They launch into “Rough Rider” and the room immediately turns into one giant throbbing mass. By the second number, those already moving begin to spasm. They go through well-known numbers like “Twist and Crawl” and “Hands Off, She’s Mine” to delight of the crowded venue.
During the set, The English Beat takes time to promote their new album, Here We Go Love. They play a new track, a ballad called “The Love We Give.” The number has the same type of ingredients that make their well-known songs great. They continue on with numbers like the anti-Thatcher song “Stand Down Margaret.” After the song, Wakeling takes to the mic for a bit of politically-charged banter. “What’s the worst thing about Margret Thatcher?” he asks. “She’s still fucking winning.” I can’t help but feel a bit grim after hearing that, given the state of rampant neo-liberalism in Britain and elsewhere.
Much to my joy, The English Beat closes out the night with “Mirror in the Bathroom.” Everyone knows the song and sings along. After the set, the tour manager invites me to join The English Beat on their tour bus. I am escorted onto the bus and find myself along with several other fans who are members of a Provo punk band. I take a seat and observe Wakeling as the other chaps exchange a few words with him. During this, we all listen to him talk about being too old at the age of 21 for punk in 1977 and his experiences touring with The Clash in 1982. I listen to the latter story with keen interest as I am a Clash fan through and through. In all, it’s an interesting time hanging out. I find Wakeling to be quite charming and friendly. When I do end up leaving, we shake hands and he offers me some kind words.
Though I’ve seen them before on many occasions, there is just something unique about a The English Beat gig. They manage to fill a room with positive energy that is remarkably infectious. What they play is akin to experiencing a soul salvation. Theirs is music one can fall in love to, dance to or find visons of radical nostalgia in. Tonight especially, The English Beat offered something uplifting to a weary heart through a music that is powerfully passionate. God—whoever she is—knows this is exactly what I needed right now. Please send me more.