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On a recent Friday night, the Hideout (7200 N. Dixie Hwy., Boca Raton) was hosting Skafest 11, a showing of local bands that like to get down to the upbeat. I'd been meaning to check out the bar for a while, and Skafest seemed like as good a show as any; the word fest made it sound promising. And when I arrived at 8 p.m., there was already a full house of (not surprisingly) teenaged ska-punks, courtesy of the night's lineup the Kim Basinger Band, Skuff'd Shoes, No Chance,and Stray Bomb.
There wasn't much elbow room in the bar; its narrow, corridor-like shape made for a tight fit. Plus, the off-and-on rain made for less parking-lot partying and more actual show-watching. I was extra careful not to bump into too many people (especially the underaged girls Fats doesn't need any trouble with that). Eventually, I gave up, having found a safe spot near the entrance where I couldn't do too much damage. Just then, I heard something that caught my attention.
"Ah... it's all wet and sticky!" the voice behind me announced.
I was afraid to turn around, not sure what lewd spectacle awaited me. But it was nothing, just a kid in a blue-and-green argyle sweater carrying a trombone. It was Tommy Williamson, from the Kim Basinger Band. His trombone was the wet and sticky object he spoke of. Again, Fats' juvenile mindset got the best of him this guy's rain-soaked instrument suggested that he was on his way to having a rusty trombone. (Google that term if you're unfamiliar; I'm not here to explain the birds and the bees to you, pal.) At that point, I decided to head closer to the band, so I could stop thinking about stupid sex jokes.
The Skuff'd Shoes were performing, crowded onto the small stage in the back. A few crowd members bounced and skanked their way around a beam in the center of the dance floor. The rest of the audience was less mobile, though equally attentive. Some were obviously family members, I thought. The Hideout's owner, Aden Reese, confirmed as much. And he said that while the show drew well, it wasn't as big as previous Skafests.
"It was actually a little slower," Reese said, "and there weren't as many parents. Usually, there's a lot of parents involved. That's one of the reasons I got into [all-ages shows], because I've had a lot of parents give me positive feedback about this. A lot of bars will let younger bands come in and play, but they won't let their brothers, sisters, and friends come in because they're not of age."
For the Skuff'd Shoes' Adam D'Augelli the man behind the event Skafest came about as an alternative to late-night, high-priced shows.
"When I was growing up, concerts with ska bands usually were really expensive, ended extremely late, and featured a large mixture of bands," he said. "All the Skafests were five or six dollars, ended before 11 p.m., and featured only ska or ska-influenced bands. It was also in a much safer environment than most local shows I grew up going to."
Reese agreed about the importance of kids feeling safe. Yes, even at ska shows, there's plenty of room for violent boneheads. I remember a particularly hairy incident at a Skankin' Pickle show at West Palm's long-defunct Foundation. I was in the parking lot, drinking Olde English, when I witnessed a bouncer chase some guy out of the club for having a gun. That seemed unlikely to happen at the Hideout a venue that's served as the default replacement for Spanky's Sports Bar on Clematis Street when it went belly-up last year.
"Ever since Spanky's closed down, the band has been searching for a second venue besides Ray's [Downtown]," Rowan said. "Though nothing could replace Spanky's for us, the Skafests at the Hideout certainly come close. Somehow, no matter how much or how little we promote the shows, the Hideout is always packed, and the kids are always dancing."
That last bit is crucial. If a band doesn't draw a decent crowd or at least one that spends a lot of money at the bar it's basically a pay-to-play situation.
"Any band that hasn't played here before that I don't know, I usually make them leave a hundred-dollar deposit," Reese said. "Depending on how the night goes, it can be refundable. If it's a good night, it's refundable. If it's a bomb, it leads me to believe they haven't done the proper promotion."
Obviously, that's not going to jibe well with everyone. While Fats was interviewing the Freakin Hott for this week's feature, guitarist/vocalist Aaron Gentry made his feelings quite clear on this issue. "The idea of paying to book a show at a small bar in Boca is off-the-charts crazy," he said. "Maybe if we were in L.A., circa 1987, it would make sense. But not South Florida in 2006."
Still, regulars like the Skuff'd Shoes seem to dig playing the bar; they made it past the deposit phase.
"Playing at the Hideout is a memory we'll always have having 200-plus kids yelling the words to your songs and dancing around is something you'll never forget," D'Augelli said. "We had Skafest 10 right after we came home from our two-week tour. It made us remember why we love South Florida."
Yeah, he said it his band loves South Florida. Though D'Augelli and company are heading off to college this fall, they plan to return for another Skafest at the end of the year. Sure, their shoes may be skuff'd, but as long as the Hideout's still around, they'll never have to play the rusty trombone.
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