Although ska is a style that has been arguably extinct for several years now, The Orange County Supertones have been a band that have evolved with the changes but have still managed to keep the dance-friendly style alive. I first got into the Supertones' music with the release of their debut in 1996 and have since thoroughly enjoyed following their career. After releasing six studio albums, a live album, and two collections, the Supertones are embarking on their final year touring the country as a band. With ska's demise, the Supertones have seen their day in the spotlight. It's a sad thing considering how great of musicians and songwriters these guys are. Oh, and did I mention they have one of the most energizing live shows around?
I guess you could say that the Supertones have impacted my life in ways that are indeed everlasting. Almost seven years ago, at Creation '98, the Supertones were officially my favorite band, and on the first evening of the event, the band was headlining following Delirious. I'd had this plan to ask a girl out in between the sets and take my new girlfriend from our youth group's camp site to the show at main stage. As I asked her what would forever be the million dollar question, the band started early, and, as if stolen out of a film, when she fatefully said yes, the crowd cheered wildly in the background as the band took the stage. To further the irony, the guys opened with their song "Unite" as I lead my girlfriend by the hand, running to make it to the show. And I don't think I really knew at that moment, in the flurry of excitement, that I'd marry her five Summers later.
So, now nearly seven years later, when the Supertones' Spring leg of their farewell tour came through Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a few hours from our hometown, I realized it may be the last time I'd see one of my favorite live bands (regretfully my wife had to work on the evening of the show, but gave her blessing to attend it without her). Upon arriving at the Lancaster Bible Church, I was pleasantly surprised at the massive crowd that had turned out on a Thursday night for the tour. Considering how all three opening acts are new bands (with only one having an album out), I knew the draw was mostly for the Supertones. It was then I realized the Supertones, although not as popular as they were about seven years ago, were still making an impact on young people. And, c'mon, what better band to do it?
The evening got off to a strong start with newcomers The Wedding. Offering up their take on today's popular style of an emo/punk/hardcore blend, they were the perfect evening openers. Rousing the crowd from just onlookers into considerate moshers, The Wedding didn't have a hard time getting people moving, stunning a few parents along the way. Their popular single "Move This City" was a set highlight, but their closer, "Water Under The Bridge" was a slow-tempo rock ballad that really displayed the band's songwriting strength. The crowd was also treated to a guest appearance from several Supertones members who offered instrumental support.
Following The Wedding's set, my colleague and I stepped out for a breather. Newcomers Edison Glass, who recently signed to Credential Recordings, were a strange follow-up to The Wedding. As we re-entered the auditorium, we were quite surprised with what we heard. Edison Glass seemed to display an unbridled indie rock platform that just seemed a bit loose and messy to grasp. Most of the audience stood quietly and stared on in bewilderment as a mixture of screeching vocals and anti-harmonies flew from the stage. In all fairness, the evening's sound wasn't the best, so perhaps Edison Glass is an act to experience under entirely different circumstances.
Colorado-based Roper was next, fronted by Reese Roper, formerly of the ever-popular ska act Five Iron Frenzy. Roper's sound is probably most appropriately described as a mix between Brave Saint Saturn and Five Iron Frenzy without horns. But Reese's infectious and silly stage presence is always a delight to watch and his role with Roper is no different than FIF. The four-piece rock band opened with the catchy "Hello Lamewads" before leading into their take on Shania Twain's "You're Still The One." Reese introduced their next cover song as a hymn and surprisingly dove into "Welcome To The Jungle" by Guns N Roses. The remainder of their fun set came complete with Reese's expected antics as well as more cuts from their debut Brace Yourself For The Mediocre, including "Red Eye To Miami," "Amplify," "1985," and "Vendetta."
A brief set change preceded the evening's main event - Lancaster, PA's final performance from the Orange County Supertones. An excited and vibrant crowd greeted the band with a warm embrace as they opened with the popular ballad "So Great A Salvation" from their 1997 record Supertones Strike Back. The set list that unfolded before the audience was undoubtedly for true fans. Mixing old favorites from the beginning of the band's career and newer favorites, the band proceeded to set the stage ablaze with songs like "Where I Find You," "Return Of The Revolution," and "Supertones Strike Back." The Tones paused between songs several times to address the crowd and talk about their time as a band over the past decade, as well as discuss their past experiences in Lancaster. The guys threw some treats to the old fans when performing "O.C. Supertones" and finishing with "Adonai," both from their debut. It was fun watching the crowd going crazy for them. An inevitable encore presented two more favorites "Resolution" and "Unite," which, needless to say, were fitting party songs to finish the night. But before they left the stage, a stirring rendition of the worshipful "Hold On To Jesus" served as the perfect way to end their final live moments in Lancaster. Frontman Mojo reinforced the band's focus on worship and following Jesus, making the ballad a more than fitting end.
The Supertones have always been a band loyal for putting on a wonderful and Spirit-filled live performance. It's sad to see them go, but understandable that the guys need to chase the sun into the California night for one last time. This amazing band will indeed be missed. If you can, catch this tour this year. And if you've never seen the Supertones before, and may get a chance to in the coming months, do yourself a favor and treat yourself to a real fun and engaging evening.
And to the O.C. Supertones... thanks for years of wonderful memories!-- John DiBiase, 3/20/05
The Supertones Set List
01. So Great A Salvation
02. Where I Find You
03. Return Of The Revolution
04. Supertones Strike Back
06. Go Go Go
07. O.C. Supertones
08. Jury Duty
09. Prince Of Peace
10. The Shepherd Is The Lamb
11. Little Man
12. Welcome Home
16. Hold On To Jesus
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