Ska History Month and The Ska Summit Concert have always been linked together, at least in my mind, for the latter inspired the creation of the former.
After 1999, mainstream interest in ska music in the US plummeted. In the year 2000, I was living in Charleston, SC, and I can't recall going to a single ska show that year. 2001 would see me create Fort Skumpter in an attempt to start a ska scene in South Carolina from scratch.
So, when I heard, in 2003, that Ska Joe was going to host a large, outdoor ska concert in Las Vegas, I was both hopeful and skeptical at the same time. I was hopeful because it seemed to signal a revitalization in the American ska scene. I was skeptical because some of the bands on the bill were stalwarts of the very same "pop-punk-with-horns" of the 90's that caused ska in America to go belly up. I was determined that, if ska was going to make a comeback in America, that ska's roots and history was not going to be ignored.
In March 2003, 10,000 ska enthusiasts descended on Las Vegas.
In April 2003, Ska History Month was born.
Five years later, Ska Joe looks back at this pivotal concert.
1) Describe the American ska scene in 2003 as compared to 1998.
1998 had ALOT more amazing bands to offer because there was such a bigger audience for the music. After the ska scene left the mainstream a lot of the smaller big name bands went separate directions or back to college and then younger high school bands started filling in the open spots. The overall quality of music did drop a bit because it was now being played by the fans of the bands instead of the bands that inspired. Thankfully there were still some talented and devoted bands out there to keep the scene going.
So in short, the main difference is that 2003 was a lot smaller of a scene. The crowds were small, the venues were smaller, the amount of good bands was smaller but thankfully ticket prices were smaller too. However I think the ratio of devoted ska kid to average joe at the concerts has stayed about the same. Ska has always drawn in a mix crowd.
2) Was there a specific moment that made you decide to put on a ska concert in Las Vegas?
That specific moment was when Vince Pileggi (manger of Reel Big Fish) asked if I wanted to help put on a ska concert in Las Vegas. It is something that Vince had on his mind for quite some time and he is the man that could make it happen. I took care of a lot of the booking and promotion for the event but the event was the truly the product of Vince Pileggi and took care of everything that was need to make a big event like that happen. Also our buddy Scott Tucker was the third man in the trio and if I recall correctly he did a lot to get the sponsors and help scored The Selecter.
3) Were bands open to the idea or skeptical?
Every band on that show was 100% supportive of the event and knew it would be worth their time. The bands had to cut a lot of corners to play the event so if they were skeptical they would not have been there. Neville Staples was really excited to play the event and I remember working with the manager of Go Jimmy Go who was super nice and also put a lot on the line to get the boys all the way from Hawaii to Las Vegas. There were a few bands that showed skepticism but none of those bands were at the event. I do recall The OC Supertones being 100% about the money so needless to say, they were not booked.
4) What were some of the first bands to sign on?
Reel Big Fish was obviously the first and I think the next three were Voo Doo Glow Skulls, The Toasters, and The Selecter. At the time we started booking The Selecter just happened to call up Scott Tucker looking for places to play in the US that just felling into our laps.
5) Attendence was close to 10,000 people, did you expect that many people? Did things run smoothly?
We expected 6,000 people and the final turnout ended up being close to 12,000. Yes, we were pleasantly surprised. As far as I know everything did run smoothly, though I should have worn more sun block. After the event on of the police officers came up to us and said, "This was one of the biggest turnouts we had here and there was not one single incident that required any of our assistance." Vince replied with something along the lines of, "their ska kids, it's about the music and unity."
6) What was one of your favorite memory of the Ska Summit?
I loved it all, the road trip up there, setting up at 5am in the freezing cold morning, working with all the bands and seeing everyone have a great time. It was also pretty cool to walk around a major city like Las Vegas and keep running into people you know or people who know you. There is one memory that I would like to share though. If anyone recalls between some of the sets we had Chris Murray MC and play come acoustic songs while bands were setting up. Well Dan Potthast from Mu330 was also supposed to do that but had a change of mind at the last minute and didn't play at all at the event.
Afterwards he came up to me to apologize and tell me how bad he felt. Apparently the people who run the venue told him he had to also do shout outs for the sponsors and Dan refused to because a lot of these kids look up to Dan and he didn't want to tell them to support something he never even heard of. I told Dan that I supported his choice 100% and would have done the same thing if I was in his place, and then I ended up being the one apologizing to him for the venue trying to pull that sort of stunt with him. To top things off, Dan Potthast did play after all. He played to a small crowed after the event in the parking lot until the cops kicked him out.
7) You've now teamed up with Andy Jeter to create Ska Summit: The Ska Spot Network. How did that come about?
Well I have not had much time at all to run or update the Ska Summit site since I personally have strayed away from music promotion and focus all my free time now on being an activist fighting political issues to protect our freedom and also help push the advancement of medical progress and science awareness. I won't waste your time with that but because of the lack of extra time I started looking was to merge Ska Summit with a networking site. I stabled across ning.com which had everything I needed, except for the ability to add show dates but they say that feature will be available soon. Andy Jeter already had a Ska network set up on ning.com so it would be pretty messed up if I added one on there too. It's a small scene so we need to all work together. So I contacted Andy asking him about a merger and he was down with the idea. So basically we now have the name and reputation of SkaSummit.com added to The Ska Spot Network that Andy already had going.
A networking site is important because it build more of a community feel and I would like to point that I did give the site the new look to truly make it a ska summit site and I do also act as a moderator approving some of the videos and photos but Andy really is the one who does most of the work with the site and keeps it updated. There is also some guy named Andrew who contributes a lot to the site but I'm sure none of you want to hear about that guy.
8) For the uninitiated, what is Ska Summit: The Ska Spot Network?
In short, it is the number one place for anyone to go to for any ska related information. And soon it will once again be a database of upcoming ska shows around the world.
9) It's been 5 years since the Las Vegas concert, any plans to do another?
Nope. If you missed 2003 then shame on you.
10) What are some of your favorite ska bands out there?
Reel Big Fish was the first band I got into and their shows are always a ton of fun. Other bands I'm really into are Dance Hall Crashers, Big D, Mad Caddies, Hep Cat and the Chris Murray Combo. Off the top of my head those would probly be my favorites. CRAP, I forget the Slackers.
Ska Joe is a member of Ska Summit: The Ska Spot Network
Many thanks to Ska Joe! If you have any memories of The Ska Summit concert you'd like to share, please leave a comment below.