Music » Livewire

Ska Is Dead 2

With the Voodoo Glow Skulls, MU330, and Streetlight Manifesto. Thursday, February 3, at the Agora Theatre.


In 1998, Toasters singer Bucket Hingley said that "the people who are telling me ska is dead never knew it was alive." Cute quote, but ska faces bigger problems now. Today's radio listeners don't even know ska well enough to identify its corpse at the music morgue.

A decade ago, No Doubt and Goldfinger introduced the venerable form (it predates reggae) to young fans, who embraced its perky pace, undulating bass lines, and brassy melodies. Nattily attired teens danced like marionettes with strings attached to their joints, guitarists rattled off rapid-fire reggae riffs, and wacky choreographed horn sections introduced slapstick comedy to smile-averse punk bills. Underage groups recruited trombone players from high school bands and changed their names from something like System Assault to something like Ska-Na-Na.

Skanks for the memories. Tour titles such as Ska Is Dead 2 prove that survivors have seen their good humor go to the gallows. Voodoo Glow Skulls, who emerged in 1993 with two trumpets blazing as one of ska's fastest, goofiest groups, now qualify as unlikely elder statesmen. The sextet has sharpened its aggressively sloppy live show, and its bilingual pride (several Spanish-language songs dot its discography) makes it an act popular with Mexican Americans in a gringo-dominated genre.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.