Concert Review by JD Alvarez
In 1984 I caught my first ska show, it was at Cal State Fullerton and it was very memorable. That show featured Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger, it was a band called General Public. That fateful night I fell in love with the genre. It’s been over two decades since that first show, and I focus primarily on alternative music these days. However, every once in a while, I get to check out a cool show; typically a ska show.
A few months ago I was given an assignment to write a feature article on the current state of the ska scene. So I embarked on a cathartic journey that led me to some pretty cool shows. As a result, I got to interview a lot of friends and hadn’t seen in a while. I started off with Dave Wakeling and his re-vamped English Beat. I also sat down with Brian Mashburn and Al Meade of Starpool, Pauline Black of the Selector and Vince Walker of the Suburban Legends. Those are some of the great bands from back in the day that I was fortunate enough to catch up with. I also got to do a sit down with OC ska icon Aaron Barrett of Reel Big Fish.
Not too long ago, I caught Aaron at the Grove of Anaheim. While I was waiting to be called in for the interview, I ran into an old friend who I hadn’t seen in while, Tazy Phillips. Tazy and I go back many years to our days at KROQ fm in Los Angeles. Tazy has always been considered by those in the music biz as the resident expert on all that is ska. So needless to say, I was very happy to see him. We chatted a lot about his forthcoming book project, and his upcoming ska parade show. He mentioned he had some really good bands for this show and invited me down. Aaron was gracious enough to let Tazy and I interview him together.
Since then, the article was completed, but I still wanted to catch a few ska shows to take care of a few lose ends. In traditional Tazy style, I ran into him at one of these shows (Starpool). We discussed some of the bands on that bill, he asked me if I was still attending his Ska Parade show? Being he is an icon of ska, I couldn’t say no.
I was going twenty different ways with a number of projects, and the week of the show finally arrived. Tazy shot me an email and told me My Superhero was playing at the Ska Parade Party 2011, the show would be at the Glasshouse in Pomona. It raised my curiosity when I read who was on the bill. I recalled My Superhero hung em’ up back in 03′, and it looked like they were getting back together for a reunion show. I remembered seeing these cats years ago at the Vans Warped Tour… and they were pretty cool back then. So, needless to say I was excited to see them again. Admittedly, I wanted to kick myself for finishing the article on ska. I figured, I could possibly get some quotes to polish the article, and in the end… I would see another cool show.
Along with My Superhero, the show featured a few others cool bands. They were the Skank Agents, GoGo13 and Warsaw Poland Bros. Each band brought their unique blend of style to the show. The Skank Agents impressed me with their sound, GoGo13 provided great showmanship and Warsaw was simply very polished.
As for the featured act, my Warped Tour recollection told me that My Superhero encompassed all of these qualities. They were together nearly a decade before they went on walkabout. During their incarnation, they performed twice on the Vans Warped Tour. They have also played with other notable ska bands such as the English Beat, Reel Big Fish, the Aquabats, the Selector, Save Ferris, the Skeletones, Cherry Poppin Daddies and Dancehall Crashers just to name a few.
The band features two extremely charismatic front men in Brian Gilmore (Vocals/Guitar) and Mike Berault (Vocals / Keys / Accordion). The pair take turns in engaging with the crowd, their banter is very funny and extremely entertaining. My Superhero also features three other great musicians. The trio consist of Huey Huynh (Guitar), Dan Park (Bass) and new addition to the band Tim “Timmy” Bivens (Drums).
A funny thing happened as I was waiting to see this long awaited reunion. I ran into Katrina Kinzler, a ska phenom herself, and she was catching the show with Aaron Barrett. I found it interesting how the Tazy connection came full circle at this show.
We collectively witnessed the heart of what ska is about. Albeit not a traditional classic ska or mod-ska sound, but ska nonetheless. The first thing you notice is that My Superhero doesn’t have a horn section. They proved to be anything but your mom and dad’s ska band, these cats put the “P” in punk-ska. The band came out sportin’ some very cool suits, way cooler than the threads Spandau Ballet ever sported. Their performance was electric and the crowd fed off their energy.
The crowd heard the songs they came to hear, such as One More Day, Station, Going Somewhere, Leaving Soon. The room laughed as Mike made some amusing anecdotes as he introduced Coley & Steve. They ended the show with their cover of Camper Van Beethoven’s classic, Take The Skinheads Bowling. The crowd got what they came for, the reunion was a success.
I read somewhere that Pete Rose once said “the difference between being good at something and being great at it, is the effort.” What an effort we witnessed by My Superhero that night at the Glasshouse in Pomona, CA.
It’s not clear what the future holds for My Superhero. Perhaps the firm of Barrett and Phillips may have another surprise in store for us soon, we can only hope.