[MUSIC ~ AUS]
Governor Hindmarsh Hotel, Sat 12 Oct.
There’s a decent-sized crowd at The Gov from quite early on tonight. There are very few tables set out on the upper level, an indicator that ticket sales for Melbourne Ska Orchestra have been quite healthy. As the audience numbers grow, House of Ska do a great job in getting everyone into the right frame of mind, playing a selection of tunes from the Two-Tone ska revival songbook. Pork-pie hats abound.
There’s a rather theatrical opening to the main act, as the band members lurch onto the stage and, after a few minutes of fun, take their positions. There appears to be 19 in the band tonight, so it’s a decent effort to get everyone comfortably and correctly positioned. You can’t hear anything coming from bandleader Nicky Bomba’s megaphone, but it’s novel. After a few minutes of to-ing and fro-ing with the audience, Bomba announces that it’s time for ska. It’s got an authentic ring to it.
The first section of the show has a solid ska feel, with the band celebrating their recent ARIA award, telling road stories, recounting tales from the “One Year of Ska” project and urging folks to get skanking. Not that they need too much encouragement.
These guys write their own stuff; the songs feature lyrics that come from their individual and collective realities, set to timeless rhythms. Lygon Street Meltdown and Bus Driver are two of many examples.
This is a big party band that is intent on having fun. The music bounces along, and the attempt to engage with the crowd through movement, banter and song is almost incessant.
From around the half-way point, the traditional ska sounds make way for an increasing number of other musical styles. There’s is a prominent lounge/cocktail feel to many numbers, and the occasional Latino vibe. The “Big Band Ska Music” mantle could easily feature a few more descriptors.
There is plenty of interaction with the audience, a few walk-throughs from some of the horn players. This, along with the numerous call and response sections, means that some of the songs are quite lengthy and meandering. The danger here, especially in the latter stages of gigs, is that things might start to seem a little laboured. It doesn’t seem to be a significant issue this evening though, as there are plenty of punters happy to join in the fun.
Melbourne Ska Orchestra does what it does very well. The music has a strong undercurrent of ska, but the sheer number and quality of the musicians allows for many forays into other musical worlds.
Image courtesy of David Robinson