When you ask the younger dubstep generation what ska is, they will usually begin to wax poetic about bands like No Doubt, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake - the kind of stuff they heard on their older siblings' stereos in the '90s. Only a precious few will throw the Specials, Prince Buster, Desmond Dekker, or even Madness at you.
After third-wave ska began to wain in popularity in the late '90s and early '00s, the education sort of ended. No Doubt turned into Blondie, the Bosstones went on hiatus, and the others either stayed true to their sound and continued to tour, or just flamed out. Third-wave ska is a story unto itself for another blog.
Don't even get us started on Houston ska bands. It can get messy, and any older cat will tell you about seeing the Skatalites, the third-wave old-school leaning Toasters, or Neville Staple at Fitzgerald's in the late '90s.
The Suffers, a local 10-piece, is keeping that original ska and rocksteady sound alive here in town. Led by vocalist Kam Franklin, the froup brings forth a sexy brew of seductive vocals, horns and an almost ghostly sway to their sets. It's fun stuff, and the group plays Rudyard's on Saturday night with Austin's The Bandulus and help from DJ Moonstomp.
Franklin has said that people thank her for days after a Suffers gig for helping them get laid with their slinky brand of ska, so if that's not a good reason to head up to Rudz this Saturday, then we aren't sure where to go with this.
In 2012, the concept of a ska band seems quaint to some whose minds are filled with images of guys in porkpie hats, skinny black ties, and wingtips skanking the night away on a dancefloor. It's true, that's what we did in 1998. There were actual live bands involved, and almost no glo-sticks, but plenty of alcohol and uppers.
Ask a guy with a 2-Tone tattoo about all of that. We are lurking in most bars and record shops, and most of us will look into the middle distance longingly when you bring up the Slackers or Hepcat. We remind you that Bob Marley used to not have dreadlocks, and once looked like this.
We do double-takes at people wearing creepers or a Fred Perry polo, and if we didn't in fact grow up driving in from the suburbs each weekend, going to shows with them, we get confused. When you say the word "skinhead" we ask if you mean racist or non-racist, and what you call suspenders, we can't stop calling braces.
To get you could-be rudies primed for this weekend's Suffers show, Rocks Off compiled an essential playlist of the ska and rocksteady you must hear.
They are all here: The raunchy Judge Dread, the suave Dekker, The Selecter, Laurel Aitken, the all-female group The Bodysnatchers, and the sounds of Suffers set staple, Alton Ellis. Plus a few artists that were crucial to the sounds, like Toots & The Maytals. So grab a bird, crack open a Red Stripe, and pick it up pick it up....
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Rocks Off's April Brem Patrick contributed to this playlist.