The Mighty Mighty Bosstones are a Vespa motor scooter on nitro methane

  • Image by Maia Kennedy

Some things don’t change. Even into their 50s, Dicky Barrett and Joe Gittleman and the band they started 30 years ago still seem like an ongoing frat-house party. After all, it was the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, a ska-core band from Boston that made plaid suits cool again. With Barrett on lead vox and Gittleman on bass, the lineup still includes Tim Burton on tenor sax and Ben Carr the man dancer. Add to that trombonist Chris Rhodes, drummer Joe Sirois, another saxist named Kevin Lenear, guitarist Lawrence Katz, and John Goetchius on keyboards.

The Bosstones have been around since 1983, but they finally landed on everybody’s club radar following the 1989 release of Devil’s Night Out. Of all the albums they have released to date, this one may be their best, although it took time for people to warm up to what was going on. The Bosstones, you see, were among the first to mix hardcore with ska, and the respective fans of each were slow to come aboard.

Past Event

Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Interrupters, O.S.S.

  • Sunday, December 21, 2014, 8 p.m.
  • House of Blues, 1055 Fifth Avenue, San Diego

But by the middle of the 1990s, ska-core was almost mainstream, and the band finally had a hit single. “The Impression That I Get” introduced a new generation of young skankers to ska-core and songs about their assorted concerns: “I’m not a coward, I’ve just never been tested/ I’d like to think that if I was, I would pass.” My favorite? A song they did not write. The Bosstones’ cover of “Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love” throws the institution of ’80s hard rock against the wall and slaps it silly. Instead of David Lee Roth’s hammy swagger-pout, we get three-part horns on top of the ska marching beat. Van Halen may have been a full-blown street rod, but the Mighty Mighty Bosstones are a Vespa motor scooter on nitro methane. “Here comes another wasted summer,” Dicky Barrett rasps and grins, “and that’s the way it goes.”

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