photo manipulation by nacrowe
its funny, i was always under the impression i was anti-third wave SKA. i saw LESS THAN JAKE and REEL BIG FISH at WARPED TOUR years ago with the crowd skanking in unison and thought it was all beyond corny and lame. both bands were like awful, parody versions of THE SPECIALS or MADNESS, bands i liked, respected and grew up listening to. also seemed that the political roots of the genre were replaced by silliness.
just running through in my mind all of the bands i like that i now realize were part of the wave included quite a variety of bands like OPERATION IVY, THE SLACKERS, DANCE HALL CRASHERS, THE AGGROLITES, THE SUICIDE MACHINES, FISHBONE, THE AQUABATS, SAVE FERRIS, THE INTERRUPTERS, GOLDFINGER and, of course, SUBLIME and NO DOUBT. guess i have to thank the recent documentary PICK IT UP! - SKA IN THE 90s (POPMOTION PICTURES, 2019) for setting me straight on that. so maybe i was a fan all along and didnt know it.
the documentary not only chronicles the history of SKA from its JAMAICAN roots, but also conveys how its adoption by the PUNK ROCK community created a hybrid genre that bridged two communities who both had similar pre-existing self-sufficient, DIY ethos. many of the SKA bands refused to play shows that weren't all ages, over time changing how book agencies dealt with PUNK bands in general. most venues and promotes make their profits on alcohol and the fact that all these SKA bands had 8-10 players didn't make for a financially rewarding touring situation, especially with the decision to play all ages shows. just indicative of how inclusive the scene was initially and the ethos to nurture a supportive community. when it blew up in popularity everything changed (as expected).
i found it interesting that some bands saw the rise of NO DOUBT and SUBLIME as an answer to the psychological heaviness of GRUNGE and a reaction of sorts by the public to the death of KURT COBAIN. it's a similar rationale to the rise of bands like OASIS and BLUR in ENGLAND during the concurrent BRITPOP movement. i just never associated NIRVANA with paving the way for the rise of SKA bands, but now i have that connection.
like any bubble, it had its peak and then the market got saturated and the bottom fell out in the early 2000s. its the same old record industry story. the scene had effectively cannibalized itself as the fad grew in popularity. the public was SKA'd out. the documentary does a great job of showcasing global bands that have risen in the interim years in places like MEXICO, JAPAN and VENEZUELA among other places.
part of accepting this music is being open to it and its message of positive mindset and self-empowerment. at WARPED TOUR i obviously failed in that regard. but whats funny is that in college at RUTGERS i knew lots of classmates who were obsessed with this local band called STREETLIGHT MANIFESTO who werent silly or outrageous, but wrote upbeat songs about real-life. and what is not to like about that. all the bands i listed before, especially ones like THE AGGROLITES and THE SLACKERS, use the form as a means of expressing a wide range of emotions rooted in personal narratives and social realities. there is a core message there that is accessible. it also helps that their musicianship and song-craft are all top notch, but my feeling is that they are tapping into what SKA music historically was all about: messages of self-empowerment and community. for me that is the future of the genre, as much as i love the extreme cartoonish-ness of THE AQUABATS and their DEVO-inspired visuals.
photo & text by nacrowe
this straightforward, un-adorned memoir co-written by BLINK-182 drummer / FAMOUS STARS & STRAPS founder-owner TRAVIS BARKER delivers on the goods of walking his audience through the ups and downs of his improbably career.
my interest, aside from the fact that he's a sick musician that has been in several killer bands that basically defined my formative adolescent years (i.e. THE AQUABATS! , BLINK-182 and THE TRANSPLANTS), was mainly in how he went about his career. what i learned is that the dude has an addictive personality that basically informed his relationships with weed, women, tattoos and all things material. that drive throughout this self-spun narrative of his life essentially allowed him to pursue and push further without being sidelined by doubt or obstacles.
and man, were there obstacles. namely the death of his mother at 13, but also the horrific experience of being in a lear jet plane crash after a gig in 2008. both events defined him and the later gave him the opportunity to reassess his priorities.
its easy to find many of the things written about here wrote and rife with cliches, but i dont think that was a concern of his when considering pursuing this book. if anything, what i took from his story is the intense level of engagement he has with his instrument and how that singular focus provide him a unique vessel to communicate with an ever growing cadre of musicians and artists. through everything, that core relationship was intact.
you really get the feeling he'd be drumming somewhere in a small club with a no name band happily even if BLINK-182 never took off. its that love of his art that i resonated with. the stories of sex addiction and pursuing of celebrity relationships and material bullshit less so.
this book was easily digestible and straight to the point, much like a good 90s skate punk song. worth it if you are a fan of the POP PUNK genre.
art by nacrowe
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