The summer of ska hits up with Liverpool's dub-rock heroes and some bright young things from Brighton
D’yer fucking want some?!” Two beered-up chavs are squaring up to each other outside tonight’s venue, and NME’s not sticking around to watch the claret hit the pavement. Wherever ska goes, it seems, trouble has a habit of following. Back in ’81, The Specials’ seminal ‘Ghost Town’ provided a fitting backdrop to the race riots that kicked off in Toxteth and Brixton just two days after its release. Now in 2005 Britain’s streets are once again teeming with violence, courtesy of hooded happy slappers – except this time round it’s the likes of The Ordinary Boys, Hard-Fi and tonight’s double-bill of The Dead 60s and The Kooks providing the soundtrack.
With their stage school past and pedigree that would make Keane blush, Brighton’s The Kooks are something of an anomaly. No matter. Singer Luke Pritchard jitters round the stage like Hot Hot Heat’s Steve Bays with a hedgehog down his kecks, while ‘If Only’ and ‘Do You Want?’ combine the spunk of early Supergrass with the taut funkiness of The Police (before Sting went tantric-mad). Which is ironic, seeing as set highlight and new single ‘Eddie’s Gun’ is about erection problems. Fear not – The Kooks should have no problems, ahem, ‘keeping it up’ when they make their break for the big time.
In stark contrast to The Kooks’ imminent rise is The Dead 60s’ long slog to success. Entering the stage to air-raid sirens, it’s understandable that they’re in aggressive mood – a few days ago the Glasto quagmire meant their scheduled slot had to be abandoned. Reinvigorated by a Stateside jaunt on the Vans Warped Tour, the Scouse ska-poppers are finally reaping the rewards of a near non-stop two-year tour – tonight ‘Riot Radio’ and ‘Red Light’ sound primed for a full-on assault on the charts. And their dub-ska-punk amalgamation is looking less of a Darkness-esque pastiche and more The Real Deal, as much in thrall to obscure Trojan Records reggae acts from the ’60s as The Specials or The Clash. Singer Matt McManamon is also growing in confidence, trading in a neat line of proper rock poses at every available moment. After ‘We Get Low’ sends the throng bouncing into wild skank-spasms, he finally gives in to the red mist building up inside him and roars into the crowd like a triumphant boxer who’s just won his shot at the world title. Better start shopping for more pork-pie hats and polo shirts in next season’s colours – this ska renaissance is threatening to last way beyond the summer.