Before the Toasters' show at the 9:30 club Saturday night, TV screens showed vintage videos from such 2-Tone luminaries as the English Beat, Madness and the Selecter. It was a reminder that the Toasters have been on the American ska scene since the early '80s, having weathered several ska revivals that never fully caught on with the mainstream. Not that history mattered much to an audience made up predominantly of high school kids. Many of them weren't even born when the Toasters first started gigging in New York back in 1982.
The pioneering octet might not boast the record sales of Young Turks like Reel Big Fish, but the band is as tight as a whip in concert. And it's hard not to be impressed with a band that's almost 20 years old and can still send the "Dawson's Creek" crowd into high-energy fits.
As with almost every ska band, the Toasters aren't blessed with dynamic material. A lot of the songs have those same stuttering guitar lines and jumpy horn parts. To compensate, the Toasters effectively mixed the fast and slow numbers, and elements of rock, swing and jazz brought some welcome variation.
The Sidewinders SC and Rathskeller filled in for scheduled opener Mephiskapheles. Rathskeller was mellow and contemplative, starting to drag a bit toward the end of its set, while the Sidewinders SC raced through its slot in high gear.