Since its pre-reggae origins in 1950s Jamaica, ska has had more revivals and waves than a Bible Belt tent. In Florida, ska, ska-punk, and reggae-oriented music were a staple of the '90s underground. Outfits such as Magadog, Baccone Dolce, and Less Than Jake put the state on the map and in the homes of many listeners around the world.
South Florida's Against All Authority, with a more hardcore blend of punk and aggressive horns, also helped popularize ska. Clubgoers have, over the years, enjoyed musical lessons in Jamaican vinyl from the likes of DJ Le Spam and DJ Kool Large.
Now a new rebirth has begun.
“Ska is on its 76th wave, and people are starting to connect with it again,” says Mick Rude, guitarist and vocalist for Spred the Dub. “Look at all the new Corona ads using Desmond Dekker to sell beer, the Specials on a Fidelity Investment commercial. It's coming back around, and with every show there's a few more people skankin’ than the last one.”
Over the years, venues such as Jazid and Bougainvillea’s maintained evenings devoted to the sound, and the occasional national act would come through. “The Florida ska scene has definitely changed,” Jacuzzi Fuzz’s Andy Clavijo laments. “You used to see a lot of ska/punk bands come through on tour. There were many venues that frequently had ska shows. Those are all gone now or have changed format.”
Clavijo, whose band formed in 2002 and went on hiatus from 2010 through 2015, is part of a small movement trying to build momentum for the scene. This past month, fans and bands enjoyed the May 4 Star Wars celebration Ska Wars and the ever-popular Sublime tribute show at Churchill’s.
Citing bands such as Askultura, No Name Ska Band, and the Sensibles, Spred the Dub’s Kevin Johnson sees hope in Florida: “Locally, down here, there's not a whole lot going on really, but in the state as a whole, there’s a bit of a scene with a few good bands carrying the flag still. I know Jeff Richey from Control This is always working to try to bring bigger shows to Florida.”
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Always looking to expand, Clavijo has been trying to take ska/reggae to unconventional venues such as craft breweries in Miami-Dade and Broward and joining forces with DJs like Rudeboi Shuffle, who spins old-school Jamaican records.
That’s how it works in South Florida. Unconventionality, time, and effort breed success. Verali bassist Ian Michael Renaud points to one of the scene’s intrinsic values: “All these bands down here want to help each other find gigs and opportunities to play around town. Kendall is where it's at: We are all like one big happy musical family!”
They're one big happy family riding whatever wave this is to spread a little love and a ton of music.