The summer of reunions and hiatus-breakers pushes forward! With the recent return of Black Flag and Glassjaw, music fans eagerly looked forward to the next reuniting act, and they would get a chance at that with a Save Ferris show. Originally announced as a reunion show, the facts quickly surfaced that the original band members would NOT reunite, but instead vocalist Monique Powell would perform Save Ferris songs with lesser-known musicians providing instrumentals. Regardless of the controversy, fans of old school ska did not want to miss this rare opportunity to witness Monique Powell perform classic Save Ferris songs. This all-ages concert occurred at the Orange County Fair & Event Center’s Pacific Amphitheater with two other great ska bands opening the show prior to Monique’s performance. Ticket prices ranged from $20 to $33 depending on the seat location, and tickets included admission to the fair.
The Originalites kicked off the night with their surf ska set. This local band from Huntington Beach aimed to get everyone on their feet to get the blood flowing in time for the rest of the night. With a sound similar to The Toasters, they did not relent with their 30-minute set, which consisted of their original songs sung in both English and Spanish. As the first band, they did not play to the full crowd, but rather they played to an arena about a quarter full. Those arriving late missed out on a good show – with musical prowess like this, they deserve large stages like this always.
Once the sun set, The English Beat filled up the stage to start their ska/reggae set. For a ska band popular in the early 80’s, The English Beat has come a long way to delight fans across the world by continuing to play shows. As one of the true originals of two-tone ska, all the old school ska fans in this crowd instantly got up on their feet when The English Beat appeared on stage. The English Beat played a mix of songs across all of their discography, from hits like Mirror In The Bathroom to covers like Tenderness. Their set lasted a good 40 minutes, which provided us with 40 minutes of old school ska goodness.
Appearing to quite possibly the greatest ovation in her performance history, Monique Powell strutted onto the stage once her band had loaded up right at 9pm. Opening up the set with Spam, the band went on to play all of their hits, from The World Is New to Good Bye to Super Spy and more. At the end of their 70-minute set, they closed out the night with their famous cover of Come On Eileen. Sadly, they never played Under 21, which I really wanted to hear. Throughout the set, Monique changed dresses twice – she started with an animal print dress and a white coat that she took off after a few songs, changed into a black dress with roses on it, then changed into a white dress. During a few of the pauses between songs, Monique took the time to chat with the audience and reminisce about the past shows. At one point, the stage crew brought out a bag of beach balls to throw out to the audience. With everyone having so much fun, one would wonder why this show did not sell out – most seats in the two far corner sections remained unfilled, indicating that tickets remained to sell to this show. Perhaps all the bad publicity about this show contributed to those empty seats, but with a show this entertaining, why get political over small things?
Call it what you want – Monique Powell, The English Beat, and The Originalites delivered a fantastic ska show to the OC Fair, a venue known for tribute bands and rock & roll bands. To criticize this show because the original band did not play it resembles refusal to eat a finely cooked meal because an executive chef did not cook it. To maintain fairness, at one point close to the end of their set, Monique Powell did call the band Save Ferris. Sure they all just played Save Ferris songs, but only Monique came from the band in the past, while the rest of the band came from auditions. For political accuracy, I have called this a Monique Powell show, since nearly everyone attended to see her perform Save Ferris songs. If they can perform it right, then we can forgive the original band not getting together again. I mean, look at the Dead Kennedys – they still play shows, despite not having Jello Biafra around.
Bottom line: if you enjoy the music, go to that show, regardless of who actually performs it.