Ska Is Dead - Sidebar
Since starting in 2004, The Ska Is Dead Tour quickly proved to be the premiere North American Ska festival tour and became a catalyst for the entire Ska scene. Ska Is Dead 1 kicked off in February of 2004 and featured co-headliners Catch 22 and Mustard Plug as well as Big D and the Kids Table and the Planet Smashers. The initial tour was an obvious success and played in front of over 20,000 fans tour-wide. Ska Is Dead 2 went out in January of 2005 and featured Voodoo Glow Skulls, Streetlight Manifesto and MU330. The tour built on the success of SID1 and sold out many of the shows including such high profile venues as the Metro in Chicago and Starland Ballroom in NJ. The basic idea behind the tour is to revive the North American Ska scene by creating a really strong package, playing the best all ages venues, and keeping ticket prices reasonable. Ska Is Dead has continued this philosophy and mission through more tours, festivals and music.
The Ska Is Dead Tour… is an idea that’s been kicking around for quite a while. In 1997 my band Mustard Plug did the "Ska Against Racism" tour. In a lot of ways that tour seemed to be both the pinnacle of third wave Ska and the start of a rapid decline in the US Ska scene. As the scene shrank most bands either broke up, stopped playing Ska or packaged their tours with other non-Ska bands just to be able to stay on the road. For a while the scene seemed bitter and atrophied, a far cry from the lofty heyday of only a year or two back. We knew fewer and fewer bands on the road as tough times weeded out the weak and the fickle. Around 2001 and 2002, something started to change. The bands and fans that were left began to look at each other and found those that were left were the ones that had true love for the scene and the music in the first place. Ska wasn’t dead, it had just returned to an underground, fan driven cult, the same as it had been in the early 90’s before MTV and commercial radio found it.
Mustard Plug and some of our friends still loved and played Ska and it obviously was up to us to support the Ska we loved. Like I said, the idea of a Ska package tour was neither new nor original. It’s just that it hadn’t been done on any large scale for quite a long time. I often talked to friends about putting something together but it always takes a couple kicks in the pants to get something rolling.
The first kick was Warped Tour 2002. It seemed like every day we’d get on a terrible stage, first thing in the morning, and spend the rest of the day hanging out at the merch booth selling t-shirts to Ska fans that had no idea we were even on the tour. It seemed like we were getting ignored by the music establishment while at the same time it was obvious the kids were still way into what we were doing. That tour also gave me the opportunity to talk to friends like Mike Park, and the guys from Big D and the Planet Smashers. Every conversation seemed to lead to the same thing. If we wanted to revive Ska, we had to do it ourselves and a big tour was obviously the way to do it.
Of course, talking about something and doing it can be two different things. Mustard Plug got busy putting out a new album; meanwhile rumors kept spreading about other bigger bands organizing a Ska package tour as well. In March of 2003 the Ska Summit in Las Vegas attracted 11,000 rabid Ska fans and proved once and for all that Ska had never died. Rumors were everywhere about new Ska tours, zines, websites…. you name it. Again even though I had been talking to people about doing a Ska tour, there were so many rumors about other tours (tours that seemed like they would dwarf anything we could put together) that nothing happened.
Finally, summer of 2003 came rolling around and Matt (from the Planet Smashers) called and said, "so when are we going to do this Ska package tour?" I can’t remember what I said to him, but it was obvious the time for waiting was over. My original idea was this: Mustard Plug goes out with the Smashers and Big D. We can do the East Coast, Midwest and Eastern Canada. Those are Mustard Plug’s biggest places to play, so worst case scenario, we’ll at least get a few kids out to the shows and have a fun time with our friends. Besides, Planet Smashers are massive up north and Big D does great in the northeast so we can’t lose. Best case scenario, maybe we can add some other bands, here and there and create something even bigger. It took a little while to coordinate three bands’ schedules, but we settled on February and April and went to work.
Pretty soon, Kevin from Catch 22, who was booking Big D, found out about it and mentioned they’d be in to jumping on it as well. We got Mike Krol who does graphic design work for Big D to do the posters and stickers. Jim and Brad from Mustard Plug hooked up the website. As soon as the website was up the response was incredible.
Ska Is Dead 1 initially hit the Midwest, East Coast, Florida and Eastern Canada in February and April of 2004. The experiment was by far a huge success with many shows, such as Chicago, Montreal, Worcester and Sayerville NJ topping 1000 kids in attendance. With this success, West Coast dates were added in October and the line up got more diverse with the addition of Dan Potthast and Suburban Legends.
Not to waste time Ska Is Dead 2 was put together and sent out in February and March of 2005 with MU330, Voodoo Glow Skulls and a band that just seemed to explode on tour, Streetlight Manifesto. Ska Is Dead 2 built on the first tour’s momentum and sold out most of the venues it played at.
Just six months later, Ska Is Dead 3 hit the road, this time featuring the pioneers of American Third Wave Ska, The Toasters. This was also the first tour where most of the bands jumped off and on the tour, bringing new diversity to various regions and shows. SID alumni Mustard Plug and the Planet Smashers jumped on various dates and the tour broadened the horizons to feature the best up and coming ska related bands of the time. Different legs featured bands as diverse as Canadian skacore band the Flatliners, to the smoother Hawaiian trad ska sound of Go Jimmy Go. Westbound Train, The Know How and Buck-O-Nine also made their first appearances on the tour as well.
Ska is Dead then took a year off but returned in November of 2006 to conquer the UK. The Planet Smashers, Mustard Plug and Bomb the Music Industry teamed up with some great British bands including Random Hand, The King Blues and the JB Conspiracy to bring the tour across the pond. All three band crammed into one small bus and toured the UK further spreading the Ska Is Dead seed.
In July 2007 Ska is Dead returned with not another tour, but with the Ska Is Dead compilation CD. It was a joint venture, co-released with some of the coolest indie ska labels across the globe including Asian Man Records (US), Stomp (Canada), Household Name (UK), Ska In the World (Japan) and Carefactor (Australia). The CD featured 23 tracks of the best of the current ska bands, most of which had been associated with the tour.
In the fall of 2008 it had been almost 3 years since the tour hit the U.S. Many had assumed that Ska Is Dead was in fact dead. It was time for Ska Is Dead to resurrect itself with two huge one day ska festivals on the East Coast. Ska Is Dead Presents “Skanksgiving” brought together The Toasters, The Pietasters, Mustard Plug, Bomb The Music Industry, Westbound Train, Big D and the Kids Table and many more in Boston and New Jersey for two more hugely successful shows.
2009 finds the tour ready to hit the broader U.S. and Canada once more. All signs are pointing to another prosperous year for both Ska Is Dead and the Ska scene in general.
Ska Is Dead Czar/Mustard Plug singer
Booking: Booking for the Ska Is Dead 4 tour is being handled by Dave Romano at Covert Booking.
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