I got here at 20.00 again the same time as on Friday, but this time the venue doesn’t get really busy until 22.00. Maybe because it’s Easter Sunday and the last night of the festival, but there’s still a great vibe in the place thanks in part to a great set from Japan’s Okawa Takeshi. He’s also flanked by two geishas who are enthusiastically jumping around to his selections and who later take up a collection for Japan’s earthquake victims. He’s the leader of the Ska Flames who were scheduled to play today but who have been unable to make it due to recent events in Japan.

In terms of live music, there’s good sets from The Sidewalk Doctors (named after a Jackie Mittoo Studio One release) who have more of a reggage lilt to their tunes. They’re a tight band comprising drums, bass and guitar and are augmented by the trombone played from Bim Skala Bim who are up next.

Boston based Bim Skala Bim started around 1983 and were active for about 20 years.Part of that Third Wave of Ska that included No Doubt and Fishbone, they’ve got back together for the first time in over 10 years and tear through an energetic set. It goes down really well and they seem to be having a good time playing again. I’m not sure if they’ve reformed permanently but it was good to catch them as I’d never seen them live before.

Next we have the Tighten Up Crew who play a great DJ set. Vintage Ska and Rocksteady with a DJ chatting over the selection ina sound system style. Authentic style and great music.

After that it’s the Lee Thompson Orchestra who are the stand in act for the Ska Flames. Lee is, of course, the sax player in Madness and he’s brought along fellow Nutty Boy Mark Bedford to play bass. The band is made up of baritone sax, trumpet, soprano sax, tenor sax, trombone, lead guitar, bass, drums, piano and organ. This is their debut show, and their rousing versions of Skatalites, Don Drummond and Prince Buster tunes goes down extremely well. Lee occasionally sings on some of the tunes and his vocal style and phrasing is not unlike that of Suggs.

He’s also joined by Owen Grey on vocal duties. One of the Ska and Rocksteady greats, Mr. Grey was one of the first artists on both Trojan and Island and is a vocal cornerstone of Jamaican music. All in all, a fantastic debut set for the Lee Thompson Orchestra.

Headlining tonight is Marcia Griffiths, known as the Queen of Reggae for her work with Bob Marley as a member of the I-Threes. As she takes to the stage she explains that her co-vocalist Bob Andy is in hospital back in Jamaican recuperating from a recent illness and that he insisted she do the gig rather than cancel. She plays a crowd pleasing set of her own material as well as covers like “First cut is the deepest”, Desmond Dekkers “Israelites” and Dawn Penn’s “No, no, no”. Of course, everyone is waiting to hear “Young, gifted and black” and it goes down an absolute storm.

Her band are tight, with the horn section doubling up as backing vocalists and the lead guitarist singing Bob Andy’s lines. She’s a great performer and is constantly shaking hands with those at the front of the stage. A great set from a class act. All these old time Ska and Rocksteady veterans are great crowd pleasers and it’s always brilliant to see them live.

A great end to a good festival. Here’s hoping it does become an annual event.

Peace.

http://www.londoninternationalskafestival.co.uk/

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