Shane here. After a grueling 45 minute set under the hot lights of the WOW hall, we took our bows from an appreciative crowd. I headed downstairs to the bar, of course, and became frivolous with my Ninkasi drink tickets. Needless to say I missed the next three bands up, but I did get to hear them from a live feed coming from upstairs. Did I mention that this was a battle of the bands sponsored by Ethos magazine? No, I did not. Now you know. As the beers began to sink in all control ceased. Harmony was cacophony. Coherence, discombobulation. Next thing I knew, the competition was over, we had gotten near to last place, and I had managed to piss off the staff at the WOW hall by touching the sound board (the sound engineer had abandoned their post and terrible feedback from the monitors was bleeding through the mains... I felt it was my duty to correct it). We were also told that the beach balls we had released during our set were causing their own little ruckus, what with their huge mass and all assaulting the ancient par-cans up above. No, no no the WOW hall said, that isn't kosher. Apparently nothing we did that night was kosher. But we had a good time, at the expense of a few ruffled feathers. Congrats to the winners and runners up, Hot Milk and Sol Seed, respectively. And don't forget to give all the losers like us a pat on the back as well: Alder Street All Stars, The Great Hiatum, and us. Peace!
It was a night few of us would forget. The Skatalites took the WOW Hall stage on Wednesday night, setting a solid groove from the very first note until the very last. For those of us who haven't had the pleasure of hearing The Skatalites before, let's just say they are the creating force behind ska music.
Ska music, the predecessor of reggae, would be the driving force behind many familiar genres we have today, including punk, two-tone and third wave. Quintessentially, ska embodies a simple rhythmic pattern that features stalwart melodic lines, most often played on horns. The typical ska sound calls for tenor sax, trombone, trumpet and alto sax, which is exactly the instrumentation The Skatalites use currently.
And let me tell you, they use it well.
Like my friend who loves the word “wield” would say, “Man, they can really wield them horns.”
So, with their axes out and ready, roughly a hundred people graced the dance floor. For any historian, it was a pleasure to take in the motley crew of rude boys, skin heads (not to be confused with Neo-Nazis), older skankers, young skankers and ska afficionados. The floor was all jump and sway for the whole night, and the music kept getting better and better. Old standards like Eastern Standard Time floated out the front doors and into the night. New tunes locked in and grabbed anyone whose ear might be nearby. The Skatalites, going on almost fifty years strong now, take the classic ska and, with the old and the new, make it as fresh as the day it was born.
Here's to The Skatalites, and wishing them a speedy return to Eugene in the near future.
Lester Sterling - alto saxophone Doreen Shaffer - vocals Azemobo "Zem" Audu - tenor saxophone Andrae Murchison - trombone Kevin Batchelor - trumpet Val Douglas - bass guitar Natty Frenchy - guitar Cameron Greenlee - keyboards
What is ska, where does it come from?
Man, where does music even come from?
I don't believe those stories of cavemen banging drums in unison. It probably went further back than that. Maybe we owe it all to the morning birds, but this is all unimportant.
Because we're talking about SKA.
Ska music, the predecessor to reggae. Imagine stuffy basements filled with people who want nothing more to dance - that is where ska begins. Take a simple beat, turn the tempo up a notch or two, add the horns and play a tune. There you have ska. The musicality is king. Everything else doesn't matter as long as it gets a body to move. That is where ska begins.
And like anything good, a solid foundation must be built. The Skatalites knew it - hell, their first recordings were called foundation ska - and they played the tunes and began to sing the songs. Nothing much as first. Nothing political, nothing savage, nothing to make the mind think. Ska lyrics in the early days were personal and general. Many had titles that corresponded to media at the time, like "Christine Keeler", a show about a desperate housewife aired on TV in the 1950's and 1960's.
Ska was about singing the everyday, the mundane and making it jump. Music like this serves a great historical purpose for those of us who get to look back and say, "Wait a minute, just what exactly is this?"
Then, we dig deeper and find a rich culture underneath. Ska music serves a perfect purpose - an easily accessible medium for cultural exposure.
And so we press on. Ska grew with the times, and unlike Punk Rock, ska ages well and is owned by the older generations. Raw ska is for dances like the skank. Two-tone and second wave added a political element to their lyricism. Third wave took old forms and popularized them with modern styles and technology - distortion, reverb, clean-cut vocals, CD's and hi-fi. Fourth wave is yet to come and at this point, there's plenty to do with three waves.
Ska, a dying music? Ha. Check your dictionaries one more time and look up the word "dying". It has as much validity as saying "life is fleeting". Think about it.
Hey all, Shane here again.
Things are always more complex than they seem. To beat the metaphorical horse further, let's say that still waters run deeeeeeep. Like crater lake deep. The only question then is, "What's down there and why do I care?"
I'll tell you what's down there, but I can't tell you why you should care. Today I've been thinking about punk rock in it's many phases - fetus, baby, toddler, adolescent, middle-aged yuppie - and what's going on with punk rock and why it's doing what it does, what dates it's going on, what kind of sandwiched it likes and all the like.
You see, punk rock and I, we've got this thing.
I delved into a state of punk that was just maturing. The late nineties and early 2000's saw a punk revival that banished the popular slang of those-in-the-know those days, which was "Punk died with Sid." If you don't know who Sid is then look up the band the Sex Pistols. Now you know who he is.
And don't forget, punk died with Nancy as well, for those of us who recognize that behind any man, no matter how great (or stupid), is a greater (or stupider) woman.
So punk died, apparently, with these two clowns of the show. And by all means, they were clowns - they put on the faces, they lived the bohemian lifestyle of punk, they were counterculture - clowns that didn't really play the music but lived the part of life that punks set aside for themselves: squatters, communists, poets, beats, those of a minority, artists, geeks, freaks and whatever. You see, the lifestyle of punk welcomed anyone. It was the music of punk that tried to keep people OUT.
The first time I heard a so-called punk band I took the earphones off. It was loud, brash, lo-fi, shock-factor based screechy distortion. (Here I'll remind the readers that I hadn't quite developed the palate to realize the POINT). The lyrics, antagonistic as the rhythm was pounding, were barely legible. I heard anger, I heard pretension. I heard a protest.
It was against anything, but more often than not, it was against the government. It was against politics. It was against fascists. It was against close-minded people and their close-minded pets. It was against anything and everything, like morals and ethics, like refrain and sedation. Above all the music seem to epitomize one golden object: life, and the golden rule: to live it.
As far as punk rock's transcendence in history goes, we can play it safe and say that punk rock will never grow up. If anyone continues playing punk rock well into their late 40's, and they play it well, as they should, expect to see some minor changes - electric subbed for acoustic, gutteral utterances and shouts swapped for a real singing voice rough around the edges.
The more wisdom a man gathers, the less punk he will be.
Bob Dylan missed it when he sang forever young. It's impossible for a person to be forever young, but for punk rock it's a maxim forced to live by. And as soon as another maxim is adopted, another inherits the old. Op Ivy said it right:
"Unity, as one stands together. Unity, evolution's got it covered."
So remember everyone, the next time you think about the ages, about what's been and what will be, think about good ol' punk rock, because if it ain't what it was, then what it is ain't what it should be.
"Anarchy for sale! Get you cuddly boots and studs, be sure to rebel in proper style!"
Until next time, keep it real.
Hey everyone, Shane here.
The past is history and the future's a mystery, but right now is a gift; that's why we call it the present.
- Kung Fu Panda
We've played a few shows under the new name. A couple bars, a couple house parties, this here and that there. It's been a quick ride so far. Only a few years in the local music scene has shown us so much about what it takes to be successful and considered part of this music business. And we've barely scratched the surface.
This isn't an update for everyone to read about what we've been doing. You've all been there and know what we've been doing. Our EP is on the cusp: some final things to be added and that's it. Our upcoming shows are set in stone; Luckey's is only a couple days away. We're set and ready, and working towards that big mystery:
Where to from here?
Keep on truckin', and deciding what we want is what is next. So far, the sky is the limit. Tours, festivals, more house shows, an LP later on the future. Now is the time for creation. The next few years are for execution.
And since I've got a baby on the way (2 months and a week to go!) I will be stickin' around the Eugene homebase, not far from the nest. West Coast, I think it's time we get better acquainted.
Since Officially changing The band name from Cub Scout to The Longshots, we've been working on getting the word out of this change, finishing up mixing for our first CD, Shanes been working on artwork, which if anyone has ideas please send them in we would love to see some fan drawings. We have a few shows booked so far, but are always looking for more places to play and more people to get moving around the dance floor. That is all for now, keep checking back for more updates. -Eric