A year after the media-proclaimed death of ska and yup, ska's still dead. This is not a big surprise. To a music world salivating over Britney Spear's breasts and violent, bad rap-rock by illiterates like Limp Bizkit and Korn, ska has had its 15 minutes. Now it's time for the boys to go break something.
Which makes one wonder what ska's accomplishment was from 1996 to 1998, and what it's left in its wake. Here on the east coast it seems to have left little but bad feeling. Rumors fly across the internet faster than a T1 connection about Moon Record's business practices and whether or not they're going under. This ska person and that weigh in with personal attacks and innuendo, more rumors fly about bands and bad deals, and on and on. Ah unity!
Meanwhile, both Dill Records and Skatastrophe quietly go under. Jump Up! starts signing non-ska bands, and lots of ska bands start playing rock.
Every week I get the paper and flip through the concert listings, looking for a ska show to go to. I find maybe two shows a month listed for New York City at tiny venues. I don't go because I don't like any of the bands playing. I realize that there are only two ska bands that I actually think are worth seeing anymore. I go to a rockabilly show instead.
A lot of people (myself included at one time) are hailing this as a return to the "good ol' days" of the early 90's when you could see your favorite band with like-minded people and still have room to dance. But we forget that the "good ol' days" came after a ten year dry spell when ska shows were few and far between. Are we headed back that way, to a few shows a year, or is ska ingrained enough now that the subculture will survive, if not thrive?
Is that even a good thing? More and more ska sounds like rock and roll, while the divide between bands grows. I did venture out to see the Pilfers six months ago, and it will probably be the last time I see them. The place was packed to the gills, but their crowd was not my crowd. At 24 I was the oldest person there, and when they did a shout-out to "the Pilfers crew" every 14 year old boy in the place screamed in recognition. I had been at their first ever show, at the Cooler in New York City, and followed them around to every show in the city after that, yet suddenly I felt very out of place. But the band should fit in nicely with the Limp Bizkit demographic.
Ah ska. I feel you are not for me anymore, or any of the folks I used to know. None of them go to shows anymore--the music is no longer relevant to U.S. twentysomethings--it has become the domain of the teenager. It's a shame because I'm not one for nostalgia. Still, I'll keep my fingers crossed that as 2000 swings around U.S. ska can pick itself back up again and remain a musical form that adults can enjoy--a music that keeps evolving up instead of pandering down--a scene that's respectful and aiming for something more than surface. It ain't the patches after all--it's the years and it's the love.
Of course if that fails, I can always move to Europe.