For all those that do not know, let me tell you a little bit about the musical culture of Margate. Being a resident of this rather pleasant seaside town, it has a rich yet diverse cultural history which has been inspired and motivated by various forms of musical genres and movements. Be it the rockers and the mods, the skins and the punks, the metal heads and the goths, the ravers and the hippies… they have all reigned prominently and still do after all this time – some more so than others. But no other movement in Margate is more relevant and prominent than the ska / 2-Tone, reggae, and dub scenes.
The history goes way, way back to beyond the yonders of when yours truly was born. Margate has had all the greats of the ska and reggae movements down here in the past – The Specials, UB40, Bad Manners, Madness, The Wailers…. you name it, they have played it. But on a windy night in Margate town, inside of the Dreamland ballroom – also known as Hall By The Sea, there is what can only be described as contained sunshine. The light that makes us feel great and want to dance, the light we absorb and makes us feel happy… and those shining lights come in the form of 2-Tone ska pioneers The Beat with Rankin’ Roger, and the inimitable The Selecter.
First up are The Beat, who musically speaking do not miss a beat (*groan* no pun intended!). They sound absolutely great, and Rankin’ Roger – backed up on vocals by his son – lead the crowd into a lovely, feverish singalong and dance frenzy. Roger is just as much of a commanding presence on stage, as he is a wonderful character and personality, who charms you with his incredibly talented band, and gets you moving to old classics, and wonderfully received new material. But the crowd really come alive when fan favourites ‘Hands Off, She’s Mine!’, and ‘Mirror In The Bathroom’. So this was a wonderful way to kick off the evening.
But while The Beat were able to kick things off in wonderful fashion, then The Selecter just absolutely raised the bar to fever pitch. If anyone thought The Beat brought the energy, then these guys upped the ante to the point where all sorts of skanking, shuffling, and pogoing were erupting all over the dancefloor. With both vocalists – the incredible and inimitable Pauline Black, and the awesome Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson present, and an incredibly energetic band in tow, The Selecter were incredible beyond words. Musically speaking, they were just perfect. Not a note out of place, and with a contagious stage presence that just balances the elements of cool, socially aware, politically minded, and all out fun, these guys are more relevant today than they were back in their heyday.
I could go on about saying all the classics that they performed such as ‘On My Radio’, ‘Too Much Pressure‘, and the new material such as ‘Daylight’ and ‘The Big Badoof’, and hell… even a few covers like ‘Train To Skaville’ by The Ethiopians, and a nice little take on the James Bond Theme, I could go on forever. But the fact is, they performed this set with so much passion, joy, and urgency, that it was ridiculously tough for anyone not to be whisked away into the glorious charm that The Selecter gave the audience this evening.
All in all, this was just a near perfect evening to a packed house in the Hall By The Sea venue at Dreamland. Incredible, uplifting music, catchy as hell songs, an awesome crowd, what more could you ask for? This was just the finest live 2-Tone ska show that Margate has seen in a long time… and hopefully this was something that everyone will hold dear in their memories for a great while.