Ska in Leicester

Saturday 19th July 2014

Last Edition at The Scholar Bar, O2 Academy Leicester.

On stage tonight: Last Edition, Fighting Evil is Cool, Hula Girls, The Hostiles.

After a wet afternoon, it looks like it will be a dry evening. We are here tonight for an evening of ska – one of Leicester’s enduringly popular genres that has attracted many of our local bands, both those who specialise in it and those who include it alongside other musical idioms such as reggae and funk. Bands such as Kingsize, By The Rivers, Stop That Train, The Leicester All Skas, Ska Men, Smokin’ The Profit, Blood Pressure, Goldstein, and of course, Last Edition, readily spring to mind as those that have adopted this style of music.

Several functions bands, tribute and covers acts are also those who play ska – a style of music that originated in Jamaica where it became dominant in the 1960s. It became popular with British mod bands. Early Jamaican musicians would have been influenced by Fats Domino and Louis Jordan as well as blues and RnB in general. In the mid 60s American Soul became slower and smoother and Ska evolved into rocksteady. In Coventry, in the late 70s, the work of The Specials gave rise to the 2 Tone movement, fusing Jamaican ska rhythms with a the more aggressive idioms of punk. The 2 Tone movement was brought to mass attention by Madness. Ska experienced a resurgence in the late 80s with bands such as The Hot Knives and The Trojans. In today’s Leicester, ska attracts a widespread following amongst music fans, particular through the work of By The Rivers and Kingsize and is often heard in association with variants of reggae.

The Hostiles, O2 Academy Leicester, 2014
The Hostiles,
O2 Academy Leicester, 2014

The Hostiles opened tonight’s show. From the Glasgow/Ayr region, this ska punk band had a good brass section and a strongly rhythmic set of songs, delivered with plenty of on-stage action. The band’s animated set was enjoyed by the audience and brought a lot of vitality into the room with a set of songs grounded in the upbeat energy of US ska punk from the West Coast. Described by Punktastic magazine as “Upbeat, effervescent, bouncy and danceable” I would have written just that myself had I not been beaten to it.

Hula Girls, O2 Academy Leicester, 2014
Hula Girls,
O2 Academy Leicester, 2014

A duo from Coventry and Leicester – Hula Girls – saw two singers on stage, one on guitar and the other on drums for their set of songs that brought together indie, punk, lo fi and garage. Joe Smith and Chris Lings delivered plenty of punchy sounds that were strong on attack and put out with zeal and gusto. Quite an unusual act, their work was stylistically in keeping with the evening’s line-up.

Fighting Evil is Cool, O2 Academy Leicester, 2014
Fighting Evil is Cool,
O2 Academy Leicester, 2014

Coming in from the Notts/Derby area and describing themselves as ‘ska punk silliness’, Fighting Evil is Cool provided a six-piece orchestra to deliver a fun-filled set that had plenty of stage presence for their action-packed songs. I saw them last on 15th November 2013 when they played at The Shed and on 19th October as part of the Oxjam festival, when we referred to them as “A party hard band”. With saxophone and trombone players on stage they pumped out a set of high energy songs from the vivacious lead singer, backed by their singing drummer, to fill the room with jubilant music. At this point some dancing nearly broke out. Live, funny, vibrant and slightly nutty they certainly got the party started in a set that was not short of character and style. Things to note: the purple trombone, people skanking to their beats and a lot of amusing antics on stage. Mint!

Last Edition, O2 Academy Leicester, 2014
Last Edition,
O2 Academy Leicester, 2014

The head-liners of tonight’s show Last Edition is a band that we have been following for some time.  They have played with Sonic Boom Six  and have appeared at a number of festivals. I saw them for the first time on 6th June 2009, at The Shed, when I wrote ‘five member ska band with trumpet and tenor sax. A tantalising blend of ska and rock, infectious, fast-paced songs with two strong lead vocals. Very pleasing and worth seeing again.’ [Arts in Leicestershire Magazine]

and went to another of their gigs a few days later when they played with Mango Mafia and Black report. In 2009 of that year when they supported Sonic Boom Six; I wrote ‘The agenda changed dramatically again when Last Edition came on to the stage. The five piece ska band played a dance laden set, with Sam on Sax, Azz on Trumpet and vocals and Matt leading on vocals and guitar, to produce a big sound that got the crowd on its feet. With lots of stage craft and audience interaction, the band worked the audience into a party.’ [Arts in Leicestershire Magazine]

At a Halloween gig that year they played ‘a brilliant ska cover of Ghostbusters‘ and ‘After playing more of their songs they unleash their secret weapon, a cover of Sugar Hill Gang’s Apache with the Last Edition Famous dance‘ wrote Thomas Spincks [Arts in Leicestershire Magazine] .

Matt Wiliamson, Last Edition, O2 Academy Leicester, 2014
Matt Wiliamson, Last Edition,
O2 Academy Leicester, 2014

In September 2010, I went to see them at The Soundhouse and in my notebook wrote: ‘Just say how good they were. Great songs, good stage performance. A solidly good band with a great set of songs. A band that excels at what they do, great fun, a band you can dance to, sustained momentum and top-class music. Takes it to the next level. ‘

A fair-sized crowd had gathered at The Scholar Bar tonight to see this show, part of Last Edition’s tour itinerary. Matt, Sharpie, Arron and Sam were on good form tonight and the crowd in front of the stage got down to business, doing some serious skanking to the compelling rhythms and, as Last Edition broke into one of their most well-known, all time hit songs, Skapache, everyone went crazy. You can watch the band performing this song in 2010 on YouTube.

A set of well-crafted songs played with zeal and enthusiasm by a group of well experienced musicians.

An evening well worth going to.

See Last Edition’s website.

See also:

Sonic Boom Six in Leicester

Western Park festival review

Last Edition – feature article

Download Festival – extra




About The Editor 536 Articles
The Editor of Music in Leicester magazine is Kevin Gaughan assisted by Trevor Locke