It's the same pessimistic diagnosis I've been hearing since Elvis Presley got drafted: Rock is dead. Punk is dead. Disco is dead (OK, that last one's a bit optimistic). So this week, as the Ska Is Dead Tour skanks through a town fixated on Bright Eyes and Simpson sisters -- the doctor delivers a much-needed second opinion.
Conceived a year and a half ago by Dave Kirchgessner of the modern skavivalists Mustard Plug, the tour is a grassroots effort to bolster the national ska scene, one city at a time. And, as Kirchgessner writes on SkaIsDead.com, "We'll be a freakin' monkey's freakin' uncle if we're gunna let a bunch of half-wits like MTV, Rolling Stone, and the local Top 40 crap-ass-so-called-alternative radio station tell us what to play and what to listen to."
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To this trained professional, that sounds like acid reflux. But anyone who watched the rise and fall of the '90s ska explosion can understand the sentiment; it's as if your HMO decided you were too much of a liability and tossed you like an old urine sample. While there's some truth to the tour's morbid moniker, it's also a dose of good-natured hyperbole. No rigor mortis here -- just ask MU330 vocalist/guitarist Dan Potthast, who says ska's vital signs are still kicking.
"Actually, the tour has been an amazing success the first five dates," he says. "We haven't been on a tour this big since the [1998 ] Ska Against Racism tour."
So just what qualifies a style of music as kaput? According to my Physicians Desk Reference, something is dead when it lacks animation, excitement, and relevance. By golly, that sounds more like what's popular. The only textbook characteristic attributable to modern ska is that it's not commercially productive (another PDR-ascribed trait of the deceased).
Findings: Lots of kids raised on No Doubt who think rudeness is just for French tourists and cab drivers. Diagnosis: Warped Tourette's Syndrome. Treatment: Pick it up, pick it up at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, February 20, at the Factory (2674 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale) with the Voodoo Glow Skulls, MU330, Streetlight Manifesto, Lithium, and the Madd Agents. Tickets cost $10 to $12. Call 954-564-7625.