Planet Smashers @ Rickshaw Theatre – April 17th 2014

the planet smashers

I never really got into ska as much as I should’ve but back when my high school winamp playlist consisted of some Mad Caddies, Mustard Plug, Dropkick Murphys, and ‘Crazy Train’, songs like ‘Surfin’ in Tofino’ and ‘Super Orgy Porno Party’ definitely fit right in.

Except with ‘Crazy Train’, that was kind of an outlier.

Chris and I made it just as Ja Cutta finished his set and we made our way to the front of the room through a fairly small turnout. It made sense really, ska isn’t really huge right now but on the plus side, you knew that everyone who was there absolutely loved the music. The upstairs and seats were closed off, so it was just floor space, which was a-okay since everyone should’ve been on their feet anyways because Los Kung Fu Monkeys took about 2 minutes to get set-up and then took off.

All the way from Tijuana, Mexico, Los Kung Fu Monkeys were a 5-piece ska band that definitely had all that it took to get the crowd riled up for The Planet Smashers. The whole band got into it for every song they played, with the lead singer jumping all over the stage and the trombonist skanking away at every second he could find. They plowed through 12 songs, highlights including a song in Spanish, a cover of The Cure’s ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, and a final song with Ja Cutta. They were high energy and into every last note they played, getting the whole crowd moving. An excellent performance that I’m glad we didn’t miss.

Then it was up to the Planet Smashers to give us the 20th anniversary performance of a lifetime, and they did not disappoint. Starting out with ‘Fabricated’ from No Self Control, things warmed up real quick. Every member of the band was having a good time as they moved into ‘Missionary’s Downfall’ from Mighty, the trombonist and sax players moving from one side of the stage to the other, and getting into the crowd’s faces, blasting their horns. ‘Life Of The Party’ (from the album of the same name) was incredibly accurate as everyone kept their dance going, and the hippo mask worn by the keyboardist during ‘Hippopotamus’ (Descent Into the Valley of the Planet Smashers) was the exact kind of fun, bizarre stuff the band’s songs reflected. Apparently they only played ‘Swayed’ (Life of the Party) one other time during the tour and thankfully they played it that night because the laid-back pace of the more reggae-like song was a much appreciated slow down to the incredibly warm room. ‘Tear It Up’ and ‘Waiting For The Sunset’ were songs from the new album Mixed Messages which I hadn’t listened to yet (along with anything else after 2005’s Unstoppable) but the songs definitely kept the same sound alive, at least when played live, and that’s exactly what I wanted to hear.

‘J’aime Ta Femme’ from Mighty got cheers as it frenzied the crowd into skanking before they played two songs from their self-titled album: ‘Hey Hey’ and my absolute favourite Planet Smashers song ‘Blind’. ‘Blind’ is such a driving song, flying along through that classic ska guitar with cymbal crashes adding flashes of colour along the way. ‘My Obsession’ from Descent Into the Valley of the Planet Smashers sounded a lot less like a pop/dance song live, which I like because it really wouldn’t have had the right feel for the night otherwise; though bassist Dave Cooper playing ‘Coolest Guy In The Whole World’ (Planet Smashers) on guitar, solo, with bandmates running in to make noise or mess around with the hippopotamus mask would’ve brought the mood right back where it needed to be.

And if that hadn’t been the case, then it wouldn’t have mattered anyways because nothing can stop ‘Surfin’ In Tofino’ (Life of the Party) from making you feel good. There was a much extended instrumental section as Matt Collyer tried to get the whole crowd to crouch down before leaping back up after the countdown. Some people just have to be too cool, even at a ska show. You’d thing songs like ‘Pee In The Elevator’ (Planet Smashers) and ‘You Guys Are Assholes, Let’s Party’ (Mixed Messages) would let people know that they don’t have to be cool but I guess they came too late for Surfin’ but not too late for ‘Too Much Attitude’ (Life of the Party), am I right?

This is what ska’s about.

Two songs from Attack of the Planet Smashers finally showed up in the form of ‘My Decision’, which had everyone singing along and heating up the dance-floor, and ‘She’s So Hot’ ironically cooling it down. Unstoppable also made an appearance in the form of ‘Raise Your Glass’ before the one song that absolutely had to be played ‘Super Orgy Porno Party’ (Life of the Party). The dance pit had long ago turned into a sweaty mosh pit (it’s a ska show, why?) so people we were as close as it was going to get to the writhing mass the song was about.

The encore that night was a cover of The Specials’ ‘Night Club’ and a song that I was being far too sweaty and thrashed about to make note of. Let’s just call it ‘Sk8 Or Die’ because it seems to be a popular song to finish with for the band.

Point is, I had such a great time that, in that moment, it didn’t really matter anymore. My hair and clothes were soaked in the sweat of myself and those around me as we all danced and forcibly moshed our way through ‘til the end of a night of ska. The Planet Smashers put on a perfect show for their 20th anniversary tour, showing why they’ve been around for so long. One of my favourite ska bands, seeing The Planet Smashers has been a long time coming, and it wasn’t one to miss.

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