Ska is certainly not dead, judging by the reaction and the sheer number of fans in attendance at the Extreme Thing fest which took place in Las Vegas. An all day Saturday event, over thirty bands participated on four stages, with genre favorites Reel Big Fish and The Toasters headlining the event. Very reminiscent of The Warped Tour, except that Extreme Thing attracted music fans from all ages and walks of life. Fans were skanking to the tunes all day long, either at the bigger stages or on the side arenas that showcased mostly up and coming talent. Anti-war sentiments were delivered from a good number of bands, and one began to wonder if anyone outside if the White House was really for this act of aggression against the Iraqi regime. Ska is fun music however, and the day was a true celebration of the bands and the fans that have stayed with the genre through thick and thin. All this, and amateur skaters and BMX riders were allowed to compete and show of their skills. The weather was just right, and yet one could spot sunburns in the making from many in the crowd. And now, on to the music, as Highwire Daze reviewed some of the bands that helped to make this event so memorable.
The first band I saw was The Return from Ventura, a power trio who combine a subtle ska sound with touches of punk and even emo. The music of The Return was a refreshing kick off for a day that would be all about party people and horn sections. Playing songs from their Build Me A Reason release, the band impressed the early arrivers with too cool tunes such as Facing The Ghost, Aberdeen and The Warning. Derek Jennings and his co-horts put on an energetic show and should really go far with their memorable songs. The CD is on Missing Words Records and more info can be had on their itsthereturn.com home page.
Next up on the side stage was The Know How who brought a tasteful horn section to the proceedings. Based out of Gainesville, Florida, The Know How performed a fun set of ska tunes that got the crowd dancing. Skyler Stone was the vocalist/ringleader, your host for their section of Extreme Thing, and he and his band churned out some pretty killer songs. Including in their set were I Am Sparticus, Chiquita, and the stand-out song Daniel Larusso Is Going To Fight! Drenching the madness in keyboards and a bizarre sense of utter madness, The Know How have a lot to offer the ska scene. Don’t be surprised to find these guys raging on the main stage next year. In the meantime, check out their rippin’ new release Happy Fun Robot Kill Time, available now from Minor League Records.
Dr. Octopus took to the stage next, visiting all the way from Australia. Fronted by the charismatic Kimberley Law on vocals and occasional horn, their super infectious brand of ska was highly contagious. The original songs were memorable and their cover of The Land Down Under by fellow countrymen Men At Work is the best ear candy you can imagine. Kimberley shows a lot of energy and enthusiasm – along with her band mates, there is little doubt that this unsigned band won over a lot of new fans. There may be inevitable comparisons to Save Ferris, but Dr. Octopus is impressive enough to stand out and make all fans of cool ska take notice. They passed out many free CD’s after the show and took the time to converse and make new American friends. If Dr. Octopus ever make their way back to the States, by all means check them out! And this goes out for the record labels as well…
On the main stage, the classic bands were entertaining what soon would be a park filled with rabid ska-sters of all ages. Skeletones put on an outstanding set, followed by Buck-O-Nine, who played several new tunes as well as their classic Who Are They? anthem and their infamous Musical Youth cover. Fishbone then took to the main stage, demonstrating why they remain one of the most important ska bands on the scene.
Back to the side stage where RX Bandits delivered a rocking set of tunes to a packed area. These guys should have been allowed to play the main stage, due to their musical reputation and the fact the lead vocalist Richard Reines has done so much for the business with his Drive-Thru label. The music of the RX Bandits may have grown up over these last few years, but the passion and awareness of the band has increased dramatically. It was definitely a real treat to see them on such a small stage with so many of their fans surrounding the area.
Probably the most entertaining band of the day was Suburban Legends, who combined ska and punk with rambunctious Backstreet Boy-style moves. Even though the show looks like a lot of fun, you could tell that they put A LOT of thought into their live presentation. You could not help but walk away with a big-ass smile on your face after seeing their show. Some of the coolest songs played included You Better Watch That and Because We’re Desperate. With a show this energetic and full of life – not to mention having so many talented people in the band – you can bet I’ll be seeing Suburban Legends again soon. I understand they are scheduled to play several Grad Night’s at Disneyland this year…
Back to the main stage where Mustard Plug from Hopeless Records put on a killer set. Songs included In Your Face, Living In A Box, and More Than Yesterday. Also taking the main stage was the legendary Neville Staple of The Specials who put in a tremendous set! This guy is a real trooper and still has the drive and enthusiasm after all these years. The sun was beginning to set on the park at this point, and The Wright Stuff and I had to head over to another show. But Extreme Thing was a fantastic experience – lots of people having a great time and a ton of great bands. And yes, we will be there next year!
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