Random acts

Of note

• The Junkadelics — those local, self-declared practitioners of “all-original rhythmic rock with jazz, blues and white-boy reggae influences” — have announced they are now Soapbox. They’ll be playing with the Laura Blackley Band for the big annual Halloween bash at the Grey Eagle on Friday, Oct. 31.

The One Degree of Separation Benefit Concert for the [Asheville Area] Arts Council will be held in Pritchard Park on Saturday, Oct. 18, from 2-9:45 p.m. Scheduled bands that feature overlapping membership include Marsupial, The Morsels, Royal We, The Jaimee Tomas Band and Rufus Grove. The music will continue at College Street Pub later that night.

The Toasters at Emerald Lounge

The Toasters, possibly the most well-known U.S. ska band (according to the band’s press releases, anyway), are definitely the oldest, having been formed in Manhattan in 1981 by Rob “Bucket” Hingley, an English-immigrant comic-book-shop manager.

The Toasters were the flagship band of 1990s third-wave ska — though revivalists of that era usually come up soulless, too attached to a pop or classic-rock aesthetic that distances the stateside sound from its soulful Jamaican and urban British predecessors. Mounds and mounds of ska compilations have appeared in the last decade, featuring scads of bands, most (again, not all) sounding bland, embarrassingly suburban and mutually derivative.

But despite my having found The Toasters’ sound far behind that of, say, Chapel Hill’s magnificent but now defunct rocksteady Jumpstarts (not to mention still-touring British 2-Tone revolutionaries The Specials), I quickly cancelled my plans upon spotting a flyer for The Toasters’ Sept. 29 show at the Emerald Lounge.

Because, whether or not The Toasters dwell several notches below The Selecter or The Skatalites in the hierarchy of ska giants, they are, by far, one of the best live bands you should ever pay money to see.

All members have obviously logged serious hours practicing and perfecting their respective skills — ad-libs and improv are woven into the set list with perfect grace.

And a Toasters sound check can be more impressive than most bands’ entire shows.

Strikingly responsive to their audience, the band always manages to at least appear to be happy to be making music for you, whether you’re one of 1,000, or 20. And that couldn’t have been easy back when they played the very crappy Asheville Music Zone a few years back — but they pulled it off. And though the Emerald Lounge is by far (very far) a nicer locale (competent sound guy, nice atmosphere, sensibly linear layout), most big-name NYC bands wouldn’t even attempt to play like they loved it for a small crowd in a little mountain town.

But The Toasters did — and their enthusiasm, added to that of the handful of skankers on the floor, resonated back and forth all night long. (And how could a Southern boy report anything but good about a band that can take “Sweet Home Alabama” and reconfigure it into a rocksteady love anthem to Sweet Home Jamaica?)

All I can ask is that it won’t be too long till more ska finds its way to Asheville — and more folks turn out for the good time.

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