Ska Summit, 2003 (Part 3)

This is part three of a four-part series on a concert festival I went to when I was twenty. For the first entry, along with a more detailed explanation of why I’m posting such a thing, go here. Part two is here.

Ska Summit

March 29, 2003

So many kids. So many checkers! Checkered hats, checkered pants, checkered shorts, checkered capes, checkered backpacks. Good lord.

By the way, if you haven’t tried it, saying “checkered” over and over a way is a pretty good way to lift your spirits. It’s just a fun word to say. Like spork. And quark.

There’s one thing that always makes me wary of large, outdoor music fests and that’s the mosh pits. Generally speaking, the more mainstream the concert, the worse the mosh pit. Warped Tour pits are the worst. I have a friend who broke three ribs and almost had to have her spleen removed after she fell in the pit at an Offspring concert and nobody helped her up. I like being in a mosh pit and fucking shit up, but I don’t like being in a put where people think it’s all about hurting each other and don’t help you up if you fall. That’s not a fun pit.

My other beef is that lately, at least in Denver, there has been a severe shortage of skanking at ska shows. I went to the Toasters/Selecter/RBF show and there were drunks trying to mosh to the Selecter. For crying out loud. And the thing that sucks is that the two or three people who want to mosh can disrupt dozens of people who want to skank.

But neither of those were present here. A few thousand people, at least, all knowing how to skank. All the skanking! So much skanking!

It’s a Small World After All

So, here you are. Seven hundred miles from home. In a city you’ve never visited before. And suddenly, out of the crowd, you hear your name. You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought. But sure enough, out of the crowd came Doug, lead singer of the Accidents, a ska band in Denver that Dan and Andy’s band, Action Shot, has played with a bunch.

“Holy shit, what are you doing here?” he asked.

I looked around at all the ska kids. “I’m doing my income taxes,” I said, grinning. “What’re you doing here?”

I ran into other kids too, another one from the Accidents and two from the Rightaways, another Denver ska band. It was then that I realized that the ska is such a small world, and everyone knows each other, even hundreds of miles from home. Ska (tiny, maligned ska) is important enough that people come hundreds–hell, thousands–of miles to attend, and then find themselves right back at home, among people they know, in the same community they thought they’d left behind. Funny that some crushed, hot, crowded piece of grass and skating areas and temporary stages and tents could become a community, but it did, for a few hours, anyway.


Overload! Pleasure Overload!


After we got into the show, we wandered around for awhile, scoping out the booths, buying merch, getting free stuff, pretty much just figuring things out, looking to see where stuff was. Dr. Octopus was on one of the backstages. They were really good, very catchy, very snazzily dressed.

Around noon, we all gathered in front of one of the big stages (as a group, we kept separating and then finding each other again, usually near one of the big stages) and looked at the schedule that Kyle had in his backpack. “Who’s up next?”

“Well, Let’s Go Bowling is on that stage at 1:00…and the Skeletones are on that stage at 1:00…then Fishbone, then Mustard Plug, then the Voodoo Glow Skulls, then Monique Powell…”

Oh my God, I thought. I had to cover my face for a moment. I am seeing all these bands. Today. If I didn’t go to another concert all year….Up until that moment, I don’t think that it had truly sunk in. I’d been so occupied with getting there. Saving money, getting time off work, getting up at 4:00am and meeting everyone at King Soopers. Driving through stupid Utah, wandering down the Strip at 11:00 at night on a Friday. But with all that past me, feeling the heat of the concrete through my sneakers and the Vegas sun on the back of my neck, watching the kids with skateboards and the rudies and skinheads, I suddenly realized where I was, I was here, and it was overwhelming.

“We better get food now,” said Andy, “‘Cause we won’t be moving from this spot for another eight hours.”

I spent the rest of the day migrating between the two main stages. One thing that always endears me to bands is if they look like they’re having fun themselves, and nobody has more fun on a stage than a ska band. Let’s Go Bowling was over-the-top amazing. The Selecter blows my mind. Fishbone was…well, Fishbone is Fishbone, and I don’t think that they could play a bad set if they tried (though it was weird seeing Norwood in regular clothes). I got to see Neville Staples perform “Ghost Town.” The Specials were one of the first ska bands I listened to–if they whole band had been there to perform, my brains would’ve come leaking out of my ears. It was my first time seeing Buck O Nine and the Voodoo Glow Skulls and Attaboy Skip, and I was happy with all of them. Mustard Plus was their usual happy selves. I talked to Jim (trombone player) afterward at their merch tent. And the Toasters! Oh my god, the Toasters. I could babble for pages about them, but they were the best I’d seen them in awhile, and I got onstage and I got a hug from Sledge (trumpet).

I was the only one with any energy left after the Toasters–who closed the festival–and that was only because I was wired from dancing onstage. We went back to the hotel and laughed at Andy burying himself in all the merch he’d bought, and at everyone’s raccoon-style sunburns showing where we’d missed with the sunscreen. We found food, and then collapsed into beds and corners of the floor (there were a lot of us crammed into the one hotel room). Home tomorrow. Back through stupid Utah. Life is good.

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