The Toasters bring their brand of ska to High Dive

The Toasters, with singer/guitarist and founder Robert “Bucket” Hingley second from right, are on a U.S. tour that brings them to High Dive on Friday. (Courtesy of The Toasters)

Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 12:59 p.m.

Robert “Bucket” Hingley has some time to spare. In just a couple of minutes, as the lead vocalist and guitarist of The Toasters, he’ll entertain a crowd of 2,500 in San Diego with the group.


The Toasters

What: American ska band founded in the early ’80s performs with opening act Mrs. Skanatto, The Savants of Soul and others
When: 8:30 p.m. Friday
Where: High Dive, 210 SW Second Ave.
Tickets: $10, $12 for ages 20 and younger

Then he’ll travel through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas before pulling into Gainesville on Friday for a performance at High Dive.

For now, Hingley’s on the phone talking about the group — one of the longest-active, third-wave ska bands still touring and producing music. Since the late ’80s, the 57-year-old’s stayed toe-to-toe with the rigor and the stress: nine studio albums, hit singles and international prestige.

It’s a job that eliminates the middleman, the 9-to-5 grind, the hustle and bustle of school and propagandized life. “I’ve never worked for anyone else,” he says. And maybe that’s a large part of The Toasters’ success.

Despite a constantly changing cast of members — some who leave for college, others who get married and have kids, still the greater faction that want to find “real jobs” — Hingley’s made due.

Setbacks or not, since founding The Toasters in New York in the early ’80s, he’s continued to create a blend of two-tone that fuses entertaining, happy-bop sounds and rebel-rock consciousness, which is exactly what he’s discussing right now: Misconceptions surrounding ska music.

“When you think about it, ska music came out of the trench-town ghetto in Jamaica in about 1962, when Jamaica was fighting to get its independence from the British Empire,” says Hingley, a native of Great Britain who was born on the south coast of England. “It’s always been involved with serious social issues.”

That sense of balance — of advancing social rights and playful energy — has always been his objective for The Toasters. Combine tough topics and fun. Achieve duality. Don’t push insurrection, just help people remember that they’re lively and energetic and capable.

To him, it’s a philosophy. The problem with the world, he says — apart from being a large, propagandized force designed to dull drive with TV screens and socially weak technology — is the insistence that each person can be squeezed into a specific role.

“You don’t have to do anything,” he says. “You can walk out of school anytime you want, but you have to have something meaningful to replace it with.

“People saying they have to do things — they’re just doing things they don’t really like.”

Ultimately, there’s a lot wrong with society, Hingley said. There’s Monday Night Football and Pizza Hut and hot water, but 100 years after the Civil War, Rosa Parks gets stopped on a bus and everyone’s most concerned with “who has the money and where it’s going.” Everything we read has ulterior motive, and everyone’s trying to sell something.

“There’s a lot I don’t care for in society,” he says. “But the most important thing to me is positivity. If you read the lyrics, the disdain is in there, but I don’t want to send a wholly negative message to kids.

“The positive thing is that music exists, and that people listen to it.”

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