The Melbourne Ska Orchestra, which started as a whim a decade ago in St. Kilda, finally brought their entire kit and caboodle to Sydney this past Friday night.
Jamming close to 30 people on stage with their horns, keyboards, drums, guitars and the like is no logistical dream. Though with bandleader Nicky Bomba at the helm of this Titanic of a band, the pure fun-driven Ska sound and energy of this music was right on course.
The joy of Ska music is the horns and there was no scarcity of them on The Metro stage this evening. Ska was born in the 1950s when Jamaicans started to hear Fats Domino, Louis Jordan and others over the radio waves from down near New Orleans drifting over the Gulf of Mexico to the Caribbean Sea.
Taking this form of music one step beyond was the skank of the guitars and running bassline, which gives this music the drive you could feel move the floorboards tonight.
The energy level in The Metro was high and as the mix came together during the first few songs there was already a large amount of movement in the room.
The dance floor was packed in like a subway car in Tokyo and pushing was allowed as people moved up and down with the beat. The swarm truly came alive early in the set to the bouncing beat of the band’s new single “Lygon Street Meltdown”. The Special’s sing-along, “A Message To You Rudy”, followed and the audience participation was just being ignited.
Since Sydney gig audiences generally have more in common to stalagmites, it was a joyful evening to see everyone sweating, dancing and singing.
Bomba was exuberant in leading the Orchestra, playing a stellar drum solo on “Golden Wedding” and he was also the ringleader in getting the audience involved. It initially seemed stale when he split the audience into two parts to sing along with him and the Orchestra. Alas, Bomba made this into a triumphant experience when he multiplied the number of parts the audience sang to six and this had everyone participating. Jubilation was the emotion being propelled from all the faces in the room.
The oldest song played this evening was the cover of the 1925 song “The Best Things Are Life Are Free”. This song showcased the vocals of Pat Powell, who is no stranger to Sydneysiders, as well as some stunning ensemble horn playing. In addition to that, there was a delightful interplay with the steel drums of Lennox Jordan, which gave the message of this uplifting song a true brightness.
The band proved they were going to play until the last person was standing. The covers of “Nightboat To Cairo” by Madness, “Simmer Down” by Bob Marley and “Monkey Man” by The Specials, made for invigorating ending.
There may not be much money in taking this outfit on the road but the love of the music is what this is all about. Seeing the sweaty and smiling faces head to the bar for a cold beverage was proof enough that tonight was a stunning success and that music for pleasure and dancing is a tonic for all.