Too Much Pressure: The Selecter, Live in Kent, Ohio

I am subscribed to many email lists to local music venues in my region, and I try to keep up with the notifications. One email I received on the day of The Who concert I attended was from The Kent Stage, the same venue where I watched The Bacon Brothers show a few weeks back. I quickly skimmed it and had to do a double-take. Did I just see what I think I saw? It was a listing for an upcoming show by the band known as The Selecter. Wait, is this the same band that my rusty memory is telling me that it is? Is this the 2-Tone Ska band from the late 1970s with the adorable Pauline Black on vocals? Or, is this some other band that unknowingly lifted their name and possibly spelled it differently? So, I clicked the link and found that, yes, this was indeed the same band!

I also noticed that the concert was two days later. I was hesitant but I made the decision to not only go, but to photograph it professionally with their consent. The only cause for uncertainty was the fact that I would be attending The Who show later that night, and I had another concert I would be going to the day after The Selecter’s show. Now that I am older (I am no spring chicken), would I have enough energy to attend three concerts in one week without collapsing? I swear, it is either feast or famine when it comes to entertainment in my region (it’s usually famine). When there are shows worth attending, they all seem to be either all in the same week or some even on the same day! Once I clicked the link and read that it was The Selecter’s 40th Anniversary Tour, I thought to myself that I didn’t care how drained I would be. This is a legendary group that I used to enjoy in my late teens, and I didn’t even know they had reformed. I am getting pretty sick of hearing about older musicians dying off and, and then I never get a chance to see them perform. So, I figured I would just go to the show, enjoy it, photograph it, and sleep almost the entire next day so I’d have the energy for the other upcoming concert.

The Selecter’s show was set for September 13. That’s right, Friday the 13th, and I was hoping for no bad omens! I get to the show early because when I am filming professionally, I always show up ahead of time in case there are any issues or miscommunications that need sorting. The street outside the venue was abuzz since college is back in session at Kent State University (which is within walking distance of the site). Since I was there so early, I wasn’t unusually concerned about the fact that I appeared to be the only one there except for a fan-couple, the staff, and the band. The show was scheduled to begin at 8 pm. I looked at my watch to see that it was about 7:45 pm. I looked around, and there were maybe 10-15 people in the audience.

I was perplexed. Where was the audience? So, I began searching on my smartphone for further information about the show to see if there was something amiss, a detail I overlooked. Well, other than it being very inadequately publicized, I couldn’t find anything. Eventually, some more characters manifested, but not nearly enough. Maybe the sparse turn-out was due to superstition of the show falling on Friday the 13th? If that was the cause, then there are some genuine fools out there that missed out.

The venue holds 600 people, and there were less than 100 people there. It made me depressed. That is invariably the death-knell of whether or not a band (or any of their associates) would ever bother to book a show in the region again. The attendees were quite a talkative and pleasant assemblage, and strangers had no qualms about talking to one another. In this day and age, where everyone’s head is buried into their mobile devices, it was nice to actually see people that still knew how to communicate with each other face-to-face. I quickly summarized that many of the people there were not from the area. I observed a couple from Rochester, NY; and another from Pittsburgh. Additionally, there were groups of people from Chicago and Washington, D.C. None of these places are a quick commute (the nearest being Pittsburgh, and that takes approximately 2 hours to drive), but everywhere else was quite a long haul.

There was a deejay as an opening act. I knew she looked familiar, but I couldn’t place where I’d seen her before. I later discovered that it was Rhoda Dakar, who is also of 2-Tone Ska Royalty, as she was a member of The Special A.K.A. and The Bodysnatchers. She later joined The Selecter on stage and sand lead for a few songs at the end of the show.

I also have to note it has been a good 20+ years since I’d been in the audience of a Ska show. Despite the small number of people, I could see that the same clothing aesthetics were in full swing, but more faithful to form than what I witnessed back in the 1990s. That aesthetic was chiefly defined to the more seasoned rude boys and rude girls. It was admirable to see some souls so sharply outfitted, as I am so accustomed to observing people that go out in public with what they slept in, or the default Wal-Mart shopper chic. However, that could very well be because most of the audience traveled to this gig, so they were passionate about it. Presumably, by the lack of locals, they just didn’t care about attending, nor dressing to kill. I can’t even say I was looking my best (but apparently decent enough for someone to remark how much they loved Paul Weller, as that was the t-shirt I happened to be wearing that day).

Enough about the audience… what about the show? The most simplistic way to describe it is that they were unquestionably excellent! To make the distinction about this show, I need to note that apparently there are two different touring versions of The Selecter. There is Pauline Black’s version and founder Neol Davies‘ version. Thankfully, this was Pauline Black’s version (no disrespect to Davies). The reason I ever liked The Selecter in the first place is that they stood out amongst the pack in that they had a female vocalist. Not just some eye-candy female vocalist either, but a severe frontwoman, who had a fabulous voice, impeccable style, and a much different message to deliver than many of her contemporaries.

The Selecter line-up for this show consisted of Pauline and their other lead vocalist, Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson. The backing band wasn’t original players, but that really didn’t matter to me, as they were incredible musicians that clearly knew the material. Pauline is still just as adorable as I had remembered from their old videos and band photography (outfitted in razor-sharp attire). She had such a sparkling and charming grin plastered across her face throughout the whole show, and she looked like she was having a blast up on stage. Hendrickson was also dressed equally as swank (bold purple and gold-tone sharkskin trousers with matching jacquard vest). The two of them had the energy of a couple of toddlers with ADHD!

Pauline was very interactive with the audience. She was singling specific people out and basically having direct and friendly conversations with them in between songs. Pauline is also quite the storyteller. She mentioned a rather bleak story about when The Selecter had toured the U.S. back in the early 80s. She said that they were traveling through the South and were scheduled to do a photoshoot at a historic location (I can’t recall which one). When she and the band were at the site, apparently some scumbag local racist rednecks caught wind that there were blacks in their community and had to go start some shit. These knuckle-draggers arrived in a gang in a pick-up with baseball bats and basically chased them away. She said this upset the band considerably that two members quit when they got back to the U.K. It had really shaken them to their core. They had dealt with racist shit in other places they had toured, but nothing to this level where they actually feared for their lives. She ended the story on a positive note saying that the U.S. has changed so much, and for the better. She felt race issues still existed but obviously weren’t as strained.

Pauline did continue on the same storyline between the next few songs, which led to her getting political in a few rants, but it wasn’t anything I didn’t agree with her about (nor was it offensive). She urged us to vote for “somebody else” in the next election. She basically said (paraphrased) that our leader is giving those in her homeland, “Some very bad ideas!” A few voices chimed in the audience that said, “We’re sorry!” The performance didn’t turn into a somber political demonstration, she said what she wanted to say without it going too far. I am sure she had more to say but kept it classy and restrained.

Pauline also remarked that her favorite song to perform was their classic “Missing Words” (and logically that was part of the set-list). Unfortunately, I did not keep a set-list, but in my defense, my hands were full of heavy camera equipment.

The sound at The Kent Stage is always superb, and this was no exception. Vocals were mixed well with the band, with no one overpowering the other. Of course, that could be because I was standing near the floor monitors most of the night. But I did head to the back of the house where the soundboard was, and it still sounded crisp back there.

Despite the small turn-out, that didn’t seem to dissuade the band’s performance. The Selecter gave it their all, even if there weren’t many of us there to enjoy it. I certainly enjoyed it (despite having a skull-crushing migraine that sprouted during the set). When the show ended, and I was about to exit the venue, I saw that there was a massive rainstorm with heavy thunder and lightning going on outside. That explained the sudden migraine. But during the show, no one had any clue that there was a torrential downpour going on. Everyone was so into the moment that no one knew or cared.

The Selecter have wrapped up their current tour of North America, but will be beginning a European and British Isles tour in the near future:

 

SEP 27 De Roma Antwerp, Belgium
SEP 28 Dynamo Zürich Zürich, Switzerland
SEP 29 Les Docks Lausanne, Switzerland
OCT 1 ChasséTheater Breda, Netherlands
OCT 2 Doornroosje Nijmegen, Netherlands
OCT 3 Kulturzentrum Faust Hanover, Germany
OCT 4 Jazzhaus Freiburg Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
OCT 5 Legend Club Milano Milan, Italy
OCT 7 Arena Wein Vienna, Austria
OCT 8 Backstage München Munich, Germany
OCT 9 Conne Island Leipzig-Connewitz, Germany
OCT 10 Luxor Köln Cologne, Germany
OCT 11 Melkweg Amsterdam Amsterdam, Netherlands
OCT 12 Trabendo Paris, France
OCT 17 Rock City Nottingham, United Kingdom
OCT 18 Leeds University Union Leeds, United Kingdom
OCT 19 Queen Margaret Union Glasgow, United Kingdom
OCT 20 Boiler Shop Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
OCT 22 Roadmender Northampton, United Kingdom
OCT 23 Tramshed Cardiff Cardiff, United Kingdom
OCT 24 O2 Academy Bristol Bristol, United Kingdom
OCT 25 O2 Ritz Manchester Manchester, United Kingdom
OCT 26 O2 Institute Birmingham Birmingham, United Kingdom
NOV 1 Limelight Belfast Belfast, United Kingdom
NOV 2 The Academy Dublin, Ireland
NOV 14 G Live, Guildford Guildford, United Kingdom
NOV 15 The Apex Bury St. Edmunds, United Kingdom
NOV 16 Dreamland Margate Margate, United Kingdom
NOV 17 The Engine Shed Lincoln, United Kingdom
NOV 19 Cheltenham Town Hall Cheltenham, United Kingdom
NOV 20 Princess Pavilion Falmouth, United Kingdom
NOV 21 The De La Warr Pavilion Bexhill, United Kingdom
NOV 22 O2 Academy Bournemouth Bournemouth, United Kingdom
NOV 23 O2 Shepherds Bush Empire London, United Kingdom

 

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