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How Ska Saved My Life

They say music is the soundtrack to life, some idiotic memes say music IS life.  Then there are those God awful internet pics of ‘headphones on life off’ and all that other happy horseshit cliché that teenage girls in Forever 21 band T’s seem to gravitate to.  I’m not teenager but I was one and I remember well how music was always there- but really as just a buzz in a whirlwind of adventures.

I can place songs to situations- I can remember sliding across a club floor when I stepped in vomit at a Ramones gig.  I can remember the freezing cold ice storm that I walked through just to see X, I was rewarded with a hot adventure with a band boy. But was it ‘all that’?  Nah, it was just there.

I can easily go days without one tone of music.  I don’t hear anything most of the time.  I’m dense that way.  I don’t have the ear palate of  true music aficionados.  I go to concerts and absorb the situation more than the sounds.  That fat loud guy drinking Papst, the horrible woman in the cheap top, that incredibly hot guy with dark eyes and wrists to writhe on.

Music is just….air.  Be it sweet or foul it’s around all the time and whatever. Although I don’t think I would die without it- as they say I would without air, so that just makes it all the less important.

We all go through times when life sucks.  When you’re just up to your neck in the incredible bullshit that is existence.  Bills, stress, torn seams unspoken words, life in general aint no fucking day in the park- or is it?  A day in the park is filled with bugs and heat.  Rain can fall, birds can shit in your hair for fucks sake you could fall in a mole hole break your ankle and need an ambulance – so a day in the park.. Well it’s not utopia either.

Dismal ay?   No one has ever accused me to be Susie Sunshine and I sure as hell wont evolve into that now  At age 52 I have  the distinct pleasure of thinking I have literally seen it all.  Challenge me- I dare you.  I have been covered in the fluids of a dying friend, I have been drenched in the love of people I’ve spat upon, I have regrets.  I have victories.  I have had a good life- I have had the life that some would admire, some would scorn, some would question and despite all that, I go on.

Not always of my sheer desire to do so but because I have been kicked in the face so many times that I’m like that punch drunk rummy stumbling out of a bar tripping over his own legs and getting up babbling something or other falling and getting up and staggering and moving and never stopping as if almost possessed from an unworldly force.  Dude lay down- sleep it off.  Hel, lay down call it a day.

What the hell does this have to do with SKA?  Ska that crazy beat two tone party for your brain.  That skinhead stomp that never ending chkchkchkchk… cuz when shit gets shittiest I go rude.

A recent trip to San Francisco was rewarded with a nice adventure to a incredible tin roof dive called Thee Park to see the world famous Skatalites.  Incredible huh?  Like a dream come true these old fucks magically end up on a bill when I need that chckchkchk the most.  Problem is when you’re an emotional mess you hit the cider- but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Ska music is the feel good party sound in my mind.  I remember taking my kid to see The Specials when she was 2, I remember literally climbing a fire escape to sneak into a sold out Bad Manners gig- there’s such a rebellious fun in the sound the pace the words and that adorable word play- good stuff and in the case of this particular show- good timing.  There have been so many times I would pop on ‘Dawning of a New Era”, or even Desmonds,  “It Mek” and blow the speakers to distortion-the horns the tempo it’s soothing in a ‘don’t fuck with me’ sort of way.  Where rap has a spooky bass so can Ska can at times—its dark- no pun intended?  So the danger beat and happy horns- well they help.  It’s difficult to feel doomy when you just want to dance.  That’s the subconscious toe tapping pen drumming that occurs with a 2tone beat.  It changes things- if only temporarily.

November 24th, 2018 The Skatalites played Thee Park in a dingy industrial grotto in SF  Despite all the human refuse sent here from NYC by ‘Mayor Kotchs one way ticket to Cali homeless caravan plan’, it was a peaceful night.  As I stood in line outside the venue encased in cigarette smoke (people still smoke?) and the sad faces of people past prime I wondered if this event could tap out the heavy heart I’d been carting around since the end of summer.  Doubtful but worth a shot.  Hell Joe Strummer screams “HEY SKATALites!” in the song “Global A Go Go”- maybe he was sending me a message.  Keep moving kid… maybe not.

The evening began on a tiny stage in a low ceiling dive, red light, so appropriate.  Up first Barstool Preachers- an incredible band from across the pond who capture the energy of the Ska movement without being cartoonish- I felt that sudden “fight or flight.. now Fight!” feeling.  Yo bartender get another…everything’s gonna be just fine.  Monkey up next- they have a great tune called “You’re becoming a Jerk and No One Likes You Anymore”.. True fact, bro… Yo bartender get another…everything is fine…. Steady 45s up next.. Wait they sorta.. suck. Buzz kill.. Bartender yet another….I sat on the bar cuz I’m fucking short and the stage was like 11 inches high.. Like what the hell man. ‘Til a fight broke out.. Right in the middle of a Beatles cover, great now I got my mom sending messages from above.. Bartender….

I never saw the Skatalites..  I discovered a cool new band and I aint dead yet but I’m not alive either.

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