Concert review by Jamie Nicole Rocha
Rude boys and girls from all over the U.S. of A and beyond invaded the city of Henderson, NV for a full day of Ska goodness for the long-awaited VIVA SKA VEGAS show. This show brought together a mixture of bands from all waves of the beloved genre. It was unsurprisingly warm in the neighbor town of Sin City, but all of us let out a sigh of relief when we saw that the outdoor amphitheater was nice and shaded. However, there was concern for the rail-less levels of standing sections and the lack of large dance space. In the end, that proved to be a small problem to the kids who wanted to skank and mosh the night away.
Due to hotel check in problems, I had to miss the first two bands, but we arrived just in time to catch OC’s GOGO13. They did an amazing job showing their brand of fun, goofy, and catchy ska tunes. Lead Singer Parker Jacobs charmed the fans with his goofy antics, entertaining the crowd and inviting them to dance (as you can see in the photos from the show). Even at one point of the show, they invited two fans (Frank Velasquez from Loma Linda, CA and Paul Friedlander from San Dimas, CA) to dance and sing with them during House Ape. This goes to show that GOGO13 wants their fans to have fun. They also did songs from their new albums I Like It! (including the song by the same name) and old favorites like Idiot Box and Free Agent, which sent the crowd into a dance frenzy, even having lots of fans jumping and dancing on stage to top off their set. GOGO13 was a good way to start off the day.
Next up was the recently reunited OC favorite sons of ska, MY SUPERHERO. Co-Front man Mike B featured one of the most unique instruments of all the bands playing that day, that being the accordion. Now, it’s very rare I get to see one of those in a band, so it definitely made them stand out. MY SUPERHERO was a scene staple when the 90’s OC Ska scene was in full swing. MC, Tazy Phillips of the Ska Parade reminded the crowd of this very fact. It was evident the crowd was glad to see them back in action. Their music is highly inspired by ska and their love of what-is-known as “Skateboard Music” (as identified on their website: my-superhero.com), they got the crowd going their special blend of music and served as a good addition to the lineup.
Next up to make the crowd dance was MONKEY. This Ska/Reggae band from California’s SF Bay area has shared the stage with many big names and is considered to be one of the hardest working bands in the genre. It’s guesstimated that they perform over 200 shows a year. They got the crowd moving with songs like Hot Lunch , Bicycle, $30 Suit and Fakin’ Jamaican. Their set was a nice addition to the many kinds of ska that was heard throughout the day and featured music from each wave of Ska: Trad, Two-Tone, and third wave.
Los Angeles’ LA BANDA SKALAVERA was next to hit the stage with probably the largest band member roster of the day (10 members!). Their set proved to be one of my favorites of the whole day because they reminded me of just how good their sound is. While you think their more Spanish-intense songs wouldn’t easily come across the crowd, you couldn’t be more wrong. Their blend of Spanish, Ska, Punk, and even Metal (yes, Metal) made a huge impact with the fans, drawing one of the biggest crowds of the day.
Up next was Voodoo Glow Skulls from Riverside, CA. They were probably the most heavy-sounded of all the bands on the bill, with their use of Punk and Metal that is equivalent to their use of ska, if not more. This didn’t seem to bother the fans, seeing how a lot of hardcore Voodoo fans had come out to support the band. The front section quickly filled up with mosh pits, with fans singing every word.
Up next was Ska Veterans MU330 from St. Louis, Missouri. If you’re a third wave ska fan and you don’t know who MU330 is, then you’re doing something wrong. Not only are these guys amazing musicians, they also put on amazing show. Lead by guitarist/singer, Dan Potthast (who you can’t miss with his striking resemblance to Buddy Holly with those black rim glasses of his), MU330 was undeniably one of my top favorite sets of the day. They provided a high-energy set complete with silly antics and funny banter from Potthast himself. One of the highlights of the set was when Potthast invited a fan (who, along with his friends, drove all the way from Colorado for the show!) to play guitar with the band on stage. It was pretty obvious that the guy was a big MU330 fan, since he had no problem playing the song without missing a note. The band brought their A-game, performing songs like Tune Me Out, Serious, Tell Another One, and the fan favorite short KKK Hiway. Again, another home run for Viva Ska Vegas!
When you thought the night couldn’t get any better, THE AQUABATS! Hit the stage. The fans were ready with their Aquabat gear on, everything from rash guards to tattoos. May of the concertgoers tried to get as close as they can to their Superhero idols. The Aqua-crowd proved to be the most diverse of the day, with everyone ranging from little kids to full grown adults; chanting and throwing up the Aquabats hand signal. This should come as no surprise, the Aquabats! have been entertaining audiences with their crazy hijinks and silly songs for many years. They are even sporting around with a brand new show, The Aquabats! Super Show! on the Hub network. They opened up with their most famous song Super Rad!, and the crowd went OFF! This was just the beginning to a night full of surprises, with The Aquabats! announcing that they were going to be busting out their older material. They treated the fans with the MC Bat Commander playing the guitar and playing songs such as CD Repo Man! and The Cat with 2 Heads (a personal favorite of yours truly). The ‘Bats didn’t disappoint, providing a hilarious, high energy set for their faithful legions of fans. An amazing highlight was a young fan named “Iggy”, complete with helmet and MCBC drawn-on mustache. The Bat Commander picked up the young lad and he immediately was a hit among the crowd as Aquacadets began chanting his name, which he thanked everyone for like the little gentleman that he was. His parents obviously did an amazing job raising such an awesome fan. The Aquabats never fail to make the fans dance, and Viva Ska Vegas proved just that.
The last band of the day was truly saved as the best for last. Without THE SKATALITES, there would be no ska. There would be no GOGO13, MU330, or Aquabats. All the bands we have grown to love would have not existed without this legendary band. As the fathers of Jamaican ska, the crowd got to experience a history lesson of their favorite genre. Featuring some of the best musicians around, THE SKATALITES made the fans dance with real, home-grown, pure ska music. Even though many of the original musicians are no longer in the band, the band features some of the best of the best, showcasing a tight, beautiful sound that no other band can touch. Some of us were standing in awe of how amazing the band sounded. Original member, Lester Sterling, seem to be delighted by the young fans in the crowd who were dancing away to their music. Even after a long day of amazing music and dancing, the crowd was up on their feet because it’s not every day you get such a prestige band in their presence. It was an amazing end to an amazing day. From an audience member point of view, the show was well run, and everything seemed to go smoothly. If there were any problems, they were unbeknownst to the audience. I think it’s safe to say that the fans are looking forward for the next VSV!