After Waiting 35 Years, I Finally Get to See Two-Tone Legends the Selecter but Trek to Portland to Do It, by Holly Homan

Thirty-five years ago I discovered ska music – in particular, Two-Tone ska music. The Selecter was one of those Two-Tone bands who were my first real introduction to ska music. As far as I know they never played Seattle – not since I’ve known of them. Really, they’ve barely set foot on US soil. Though they’re playing a show in Seattle (which I will go see), they are just a supporting act, so when I learned they were headlining their own show in Portland, OR, I was going to part the Red Sea to go see them. I hopped on an Amtrak and headed south.

The Selecter is fronted by the dynamic Pauline Black and the very energetic Arthur ‘Gaps” Hendrickson. They played the King Arthur Theater, the same theater I saw Ray Davies perform in five years ago. Though the 600-capacity theater was maybe half full, those in attendance appeared to be die-hard fans judging by their enthusiasm. When the band played their new song Frontline Pauline dedicated it to Heather Heyer, the young woman who was mowed down in Charlotte while protesting a white supremacist march. Meanwhile, Arthur read off several names of black men who were shot and killed by police before ending with, “who’s next?”

None of the members of the Selecter stood in one spot very long. Arthur strutted about the stage, kicked up his heels, and spun about practically non-stop as if he had joints everywhere on his body. He could move! Pauline, on the other hand, dripped with charm while Arthur dripped with sweat. Pauline often moved to the very edge of the stage to lean into the crowd. During one song she joined Winston on the drums, standing beside him and tapping a cymbal. When they performed their more famous songs, On My Radio and Too Much Pressure (which they infused a bit of Pressure Drop into) there wasn’t a still body in the theater.

The horn section, Neil Pyzer-Skeete, tenor sax and Orlando LaRose, baritone sax were no slouches in putting on their own dance moves to keep things lively and neither was keyboard player Lee Horsley who bounced about without ever missing a note with his lightning speed fingers.

Will Crewdson played electric guitar and looking at him, he was probably not even alive yet when the Selecter was born in 1979. But he could play! He was a pro with the whammy bar and wore dark glasses almost the entire show giving him a bit of a sci-fi look. Bass player Luke Palmer and drummer Winston Marche kept things steady. The sound was so impeccable I could hear every single instrument.

By show’s end Arthur was so drenched in sweat he twisted his tie, ringing out a small puddle of sweat. He just never stopped moving. By the time the show was over it was hard to tell who had more fun, the band or the audience. I think it was a tie.

As for me, I was still pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. For years I wished they would do a concert here. I got my wish and wasn’t disappointed. This concert was well worth the trek south and I’d do it again tomorrow if they want to repeat.

– Photos property of Holly Homan all rights reserved.

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