For a few years, Provo City has been putting on one free concert a month throughout the summer. They started out on the roof of some building, but have since expanded so much that they no longer fit on one roof. Or even in one intersection.
I’ve heard of a few of these concerts, but have never gone until this past Saturday.
I didn’t really get into ska until college when I started playing in a ska band. I had heard The Mighty Mighty BossToneS, No Doubt, Reel Big Fish and Sublime on the radio – and liked what I heard. I had even purchased an Aquabats cd. But nobody told me that was ska. I did have one friend in high school who introduced me to Five Iron Frenzy, but I only listened to snippets of songs during that week or so when he showed them to me.
But a couple of years later I really started getting into ska. I was writing and playing it. I was listening to it live and recorded in studio. And I was meeting a lot of other people in ska bands and trading recommendations with them. So I discovered even more bands. Some of them local legends.
One of those legends of Utah ska was My Man Friday. And they weren’t just well known locally. They played with The Skatalites and really helped put Utah on the international ska map.
I didn’t hear about them until after they broke up. They did play once a few years ago, but I wasn’t in Utah at the time. And they played again last Saturday night. So I had to go.
Moment of honesty, despite the title of this blog post, I did not actually get to see the opening band. I had a very diverse cultural experience that night.
I also went to a book signing by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston. If you don’t know who Scott Card is, you really need to read Ender’s Game. You can watch the 2013 movie, read Marvel’s graphic novel version or read the original 1977 short story, but I think the 1985 novel is best. Or the audiobook adaptation. The U.S. Marines use Ender’s Game to teach about leadership. It’s kind of a big deal.
Ender’s game not just takes place (mostly) in space, but is actually science fiction (which doesn’t necessarily have to take place in space at all). The series now has 14 novels (plus a novela)(and at least four more books on the way) thirteen short stories (some of which were later collected into a 16th book/novela), 47 comics issues, audio versions of every book and short story (plus an audio play for Ender’s Game), and the film.
While working on the comic adaptations, Card started working with Aaron Johnston (with whom he had worked on other projects) on the expanded Enderverse. Some of those comics were original prequels, and Card and Johnston worked together to novelize those. The latest book is a novel between those prequels and Ender’s Game, just released last week. So they came to sign some books and I went.
They talked and answered questions starting about 7, and didn’t start signing books until 8. Mad Max and the Wild Ones went on at 7:30. It was only about a 10 minute drive/run from one event to the other, but there was no way I was going to make it to the opening set.
They’re a rockabilly band. I met up with one of my drummers at the show and he said they were pretty good. It made me want to look them up. As far as I can tell, they’ve only got two songs available to listen to online, which you can download from their Reverb Nation page. I haven’t listened to them yet, but I probably will while I drive five hours to Stanley, Idaho this week for my brother’s wedding.
But I did make it to most of My Man Friday’s set.
And they were great. The crowd was dancing and singing. And the horns were AMAZING. One tune, Cantina Ska, I have always thought was a reference to Star Wars: A New Hope. They can’t play that distinctive riff on the record without paying royalties, but incorporating it into a free live version? Yep. They went there. And they played a sweet cover of The Beatles‘ Ob-la-di Ob-la-da.
But kids kept chanting, “Where was the captain!?” (which is a reference to an early Aquabats song). Don’t rush My Man Friday off the stage. The Aquabats will come on when they’re good and ready. They know you want to see them. That’s why you’re still standing in the middle of the street. The one time it was funny was when The Aquabats were introducing a song and asked where the mayor of Provo (who had been on stage a little bit earlier to give some thanks and whatnot) was. Then the crowd started chanting, “What was the mayor!?” and it was funny. But he didn’t come.
I don’t know if it’s just because I’m getting older or if it’s because the show was free or what, but I felt like there were a lot of self-centered college kids. who weren’t singing along and weren’t dancing, but just shoving. And it got worse as the show went on. By the time they went on, I had made it to the front. But, as happens at shows, someone came along and (with boney knees and elbows), worked her way in front of me.
Don’t get me wrong, The Aquabats! were sweet, but I’ve seen them quite a few times and I don’t think this was their best performance. I think part of it was because they’ve been focusing on their TV show lately and I haven’t been watching it, so they played some tunes I hadn’t heard before. And it’s not that they have ever been a serious band, but I just haven’t been following the whimsy for a few years. My favorite tune of theirs is 10 years old now. They played it, and it still has some of the best drumming I’ve ever heard.
Still, it was a good show. I really want to see My Man Friday again. And it made me want to start playing more music. Concerts are so much better on or behind stage than they are in front of them.