The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ Ben Carr has the best gig in the universe. Having been with the Boston band since its inception in 1983, Carr is a jack of all trades. He’s a dancer, backing vocalist, the band’s sort-of tour manager, and an official Bosstone. On stage at New Haven’s College Street Music Hall, he was a total hype guy, bringing the energy and maybe having the most fun I’ve ever seen someone have on stage. This skanking fiend has one of the best jobs on the planet. Ben Carr is a goddamn American hero.
The Bosstones were in town celebrating the 20th anniversary of Let’s Face It, their breakthrough, platinum-certified album that graced the ska punk world with tracks like “The Impression That I Get,” “The Rascal King,” and “Royal Oil.” While ska’s heyday is certainly behind us, anyone questioning the genre’s pulse would’ve been shut the fuck down. The band played to a nearly packed house full of fans of every age. Ska fans not only brought their love for skanking, like Carr, but the crowd’s t-shirt game was strong. Fans donned shirts from The Specials and The English Beat, to newer acts like Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake (I was personally reppin’ Me First and the Gimme Gimmes). Ska fans are all about community and self expression, and Connecticut’s love for ska was undeniably strong, evident even before the first notes were played.
The band kicked the night off playing (as promised) Let’s Face It start to finish, which was incredibly satisfying for casual fans and die-hards alike. From there, the band played a solid mix of pre- and post-Face It. For every newer track like “Don’t Worry Desmond Dekker” or “Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah,” the Bosstones would counter with older fare like “Toxic Toast,” “Someday I Suppose” or “Devil’s Night Out.” I can’t imagine anyone left disappointed.
The choices for covers were incredible, particularly the renditions of The Wailers’ “Simmer Down” and The Clash’s “Rudie Can’t Fail.” (Covering The Clash is truly a key to my heart and the pathway to eternal cred…or something.)
The band was incredibly tight after all these years and churned out ska banger after ska banger, and the crowd responded accordingly. Singer Dicky Barrett sounded just like fans had remembered, as if his voice didn’t age a single one of those 20 years.
The floor closest to the stage looked so packed I had concerns that it was limiting the evening’s skankability. But my worries subsided as I stared front and center at (the man, the myth, the legend) Carr, fully suited and tearing it up, running from stage left to stage right, flailing his limbs and jumping for the lot of us. Carr is The Bosstones’ heart, their energy center. And goddammit, who doesn’t want to live that Ben Carr life?