Picture This column: “The ska and reggae music scenes in Southend are booming”

SKA music was the soundtrack of photographer Gaz De Vere’s youth in the 80s. Here he details why ska and reggae music is still thriving in Southend to this day.

From the early days of Madness gigs at Hope and Anchor in Islington, to working on pop promos for bands such as General Public, 2Tone has really been a part of my growth.

Madness’ debut album, Absolutely, released in 1980, was of course worth listening to at the time.

Echo: Performing - Slim Pickings.  Photo: Gaz De VerePerformance – Thin Pickups. Photo: Gaz De Vere (Photo: Gaz De Vere)

We now have a really lively and compelling ska and reggae scene here in Southend.

The Moochers can often be found performing in Southend High Street, as well as performing their sold-out shows at venues such as Chinnerys.

I’ve never been a big fan of reggae, but Slim Pickings, who recently played the East Beach Festival, makes it very accessible. The Estimators, who regularly play Skathend events at The Venue alongside The Cricketers, are also an excellent and genuine band, delivering sets guaranteed to have the crowd stomping.

Ska originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s and was the precursor to reggae. Ska music saw a major revival in the late 1970s with the emergence of Two Tone Records with bands like The Selector, The Specials and Madness. Reggae, by comparison, is less frenetic and more laid-back, while ska is a bit livelier. The scene is brilliantly inclusive, and concerts are attended by a wide range of ages and in the true spirit of music, there is no room for racial division.

Southend has a thriving music scene with plenty of venues to accommodate all genres. And there is no shortage of performers to fill those niches.

Currently, there is a resurgence of interest in ska and reggae, with local bands filling venues all over the city. Jack Roth and Frankie Roe’s band Slim Pickings and The Moochers both played at the Leigh Community Center and the Complete Madness tribute act filled the ballroom at the Royal Hotel, and The Estimators entertain regularly the crowds at the free monthly ‘Skathend’ event at Venue at The Cricketers.

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