Skalicious

This past Thursday, I trekked out to Port Credit’s Door FiftyFive club (thank you GO Transit!) to catch a few sets by The Arsenals. I had personal reasons to finally catch this group play, which will become obvious when I talk about the band members. Regardless, I was not disappointed, in fact, this is one of the most fun bands I have heard, and seen, in a long time.

The first set opened with a few warmup instrumentals that featured guitarist (and Juno nominated recording engineer) Shane “Shaky J” Forrest, but as soon as everyone had arrived, the show began in earnest. The band takes you through quick and entertaining evolution of Caribbean music — Calypso, Mento, Rocksteady, Ska, and Reggae — explaining and energetically demonstrating each of these forms. Still, don’t believe the band is locked in to one genre, as the surprise at the end of set one demonstrates. I won’t spoil it for you.

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Sonia and Dizzy working it!

I could not stay for the full second set, regretfully having to catch the last train back, but the band came back even more energized, and featured in particular multi-Juno and Canadian Reggae Music Awards winner Sonia Collymore on vocals. That alone would make the band worth catching.

Up front as well is Dizzy Minott, on trombone, vocals and unquestionably the band leader. Dizzy drives the whole group forward, with energy and humour but also a deep commitment to his craft and a love of what he does. On dual Yamaha keyboards, journeyman player and producer Dwight “Duke” Dawes tastefully incorporated the Bang, fills and bubble plus backup vocals without things sounding crowded and overly busy.

Of course, it would not be Ska (or Reggae) without a solid rhythm section. Ian Green on drums has an unusual drumming style (left hand for hi-hat, right for snare on a standard right-handed kit), but that doesn’t seem to do anything but improve his incredible timing and amazing fills.

NeMo on bass, yes FatC’s own, is solid and looks like he loves every second of the show. I cannot for a moment begrudge him playing with “that other” band.

For sure, The Arsenals would be my first choice entertainment for any party I would be having.

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Left to right: Sonia, Duke, Dizzy, Ian, NeMo and Shaky J. Apologies for the crappy Photoshopping.

Here is a clip from a show a while back at the Orbit Room.

Félix and the Cats are not a Ska band, but there is one song in the repertoire that comes close to the feel, so I present a ROUGH demo to you as an homage to musicians who do it much better! No real drummer was harmed in the making of it — only Garageband loops. But you can be the best judge of that if you come to see us this Saturday at the Salty Dog, 1980 Queen Street East, Toronto. The show starts at 9 PM.

Cheaper Than Golf ©2015 R. Pelletier/Félix and the Cats

Verse 1
I have a confession
A problem I must own
It is an obsession
That I can’t leave alone
This need for expression
From which I can’t abstain
It begs for the question
Am I really sane

Chorus
Can’t let it go
It’s got a hold on me
Can’t let it go
It will not let me be
Can’t get enough
It’s all I’m looking for
Can’t get enough
I always crave for more

Verse 2
All my time and energy
In pursuit of illusion
I neglect responsibilities
Is it a delusion?

Chorus

Solo over verse

Chorus

Verse 3
“Cheaper than golf” I say
That is my rational
Although it drives me crazy
It’s good for my morale

Chorus Out

Until next week, be well!

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