The concept of rudietuesdays as an alias started about a decade ago (oy) when I thought I was the most clever for creating a ska-based pun off of the name of a chain restaurant. For years I’ve used variations on it for usernames and handles, including my first Twitter alias back when I was just learning the point of a 140-character tweet.
The name exists because of my deep-rooted love for ska. To pin this back to one unifying moment, my ears were first opened to the goofy horns of The Aquabats’ “Pool Party.” A friend had randomly stumbled upon in back in the days of BearShare. I needed more upbeats. I couldn’t get enough.
I searched the post-Napster, pre-Spotify sites with the keyword “ska.” I can’t recall how or why I first came across The Specials, but they made all the difference. 2 tone was soon all I wanted to hear. When I doodled in my notebooks, I used thick Sharpies in black and red that would bleed through pages, turning my notes into checkerboard. I drew stick figures modeled after Walt Jabsco.
The Specials sang about unity way before Operation Ivy. They were in their prime before my time. I grew up with the third wave, with a couple of female-fronted ska bands to look up to, but in a genre vastly dominated by white guys and very little diversity. The Specials are from a time where racial divides were a huge issue in their music. By the time the third wave rolled in, bands weren’t nearly as focused on racial or political issues. Or when they were, it was from a very limited perspective.
The Specials are one of the most important bands in musically shaping me. If I had forgotten how important they are, how defining their music was, I was reminded at their show at Pier 26 on Wednesday night.
The Specials. Do the dog, not the donkey!
The set list was fantastic. They dedicated three songs to people. The first was “Hey Little Rich Girl” to the late Amy Winehouse, saying it was one of her favorite songs. It drew applause from the crowd as a sweet dedication, but the next two are what really grabbed my attention.
For Trayvon Martin, they played a version of “Why” leading into “Doesn’t Make it Alright.” Lynval and Terry said how dumbfounded they were at the jury ruling, how awful the whole case was. A few songs later, the band dedicated “A Message to You, Rudy” to George Zimmerman, adding a dark twist to a crowd favorite. Energy was still high during these songs; the crowd still skanked as best as our old bones could, and we still sang along. But behind it was a message that the status quo is still screwed up; we’re not in a happy post-racial society.
Overall, the show was incredible. A circle pit of beer-bellied, tattooed men in their 40s and 50s half-skanked, half-stumbled around together in a messy, unifying heap — a sight I doubt I’ll ever see again.
But I didn’t realize I needed a reminder of the love and respect I have for The Specials until they did they brought up the Zimmerman case, reminding everyone that they were a band always deeply involved with activism in their music. That even so many decades later, the issues they were fighting when they first formed have still not been resolved.