Friday, September 20, 2013

The Selecter at the Gramercy Theatre

Ska music originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s, combining elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues, and dominated Jamaica’s music scene in the early 1960s. British bands during the punk rock period in the late 1970s adapted and revitalized the sound for a new audience. The Selecter formed in 1979 in Coventry, England, taking the band's name from the term "selector", which is Jamaican slang for disc jockey. The Selecter was one of the most successful ska bands of that era, with two hit albums and several hit songs in Great Britain before splitting in 1982. Pauline Black and Arthur “Gaps” Hendrickson were the original Selecter vocalists, and while members have come and gone and the group itself has split and reformed several times, the two are back fronting the Selecter again, nearly 35 years after it all began for them. The Selecter recorded 11 albums, including 2013’s String Theory.

At the Gramercy Theatre tonight, the Selecter were as genuine as could be. The eight band members dressed in shiny, narrow-lapelled, early-1960s-styled suits, with the men also wearing white shirts and skinny ties. From the beginning of the performance, every band member worked up a sweat in those suits as they jumped and moved to the strongly-emphasized rhythms. The band mixed and matched new songs with ska classics and the songs (written by former member Neol Davies) that popularized the Selecter. Black’s terrific British rude-girl singing style alongside Hendrickson’s raw Jamaican-style toasting made for outstanding chemistry and combined superbly with the musicians’ hopping keyboards, brass and percussion to great success. The effect was evident; in a very rare scene at the Gramercy, nearly everyone on the floor level danced, bounced or “skanked” intensely to the entire set.

Visit the Selecter at