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Ska By Skawest festival unites DFW ska scene

Ska By Skawest festival unites DFW ska scene

Expresión Clandestina perform at Ska by Skawest on April 21 at Three Links in Deep Ellum. Ska by Skawest started in 2015 and features local, national and international ska and punk bands. Sara Carpenter

Ska By Skawest festival unites DFW ska scene
April 23
10:09 2018

“Speaking of fun, here’s a song about how nothing matters and we’re all gonna die,” Eric Daino, singer and guitar player of The Holophonics, said before launching into a song.

The fourth annual Ska By SkaWest festival was held in Dallas’ Three Links club on April 20 and 21. Ska is known for its use of brass instruments, upbeat tempos and A major scale. The genre draws from reggae, jazz and punk to create a fun, high energy sound.

Mark Kimberlin is the vocalist and guitarist of Denton ska band Madaline as well as the festival’s organizer.

“I’m not your run-of-the-mill event coordinator or talent buyer,” Kimberlin said. “I just try to be as easy and simple as I possibly can.”

Kimberlin started the festival as a way to connect bands in the ska scene. He said the festival has grown and become more structured over the years. However, there are fewer bands playing this year than there were last year.

“[We’re] trying to give a little more quality to the festival rather than just jam it full of just any band that wanted to play,” Kimberlin said.

Most of Madaline’s six members attended UNT. Kimberlin was a drawing and painting major, but said the active music scene in Denton kept his interest in music alive.

“Being around other creative individuals definitely was a plus,” Kimberlin said.

Expresión Clandestina perform at Ska by Skawest on Saturday at Three Links in Deep Ellum. Ska by Skawest started in 2015 and features local, national and international ska and punk bands. Sara Carpenter

The band was founded by Kimerlin and singer-trumpet player Adaline Cherry. Cherry said they have been writing songs since junior high.

“We’re not reintroducing ska to people, but kind of reminding them [that] we’re still here, we’re still doing this, this is still a thing,” Cherry said.

Another band that has worked to keep the ska scene alive is Denton band The Holophonics. They have played Ska by Skawest every year. Daino met his fellow band members while attending UNT.

“Everyone in the band is a UNT music guy know-it-all [who] majored in music, and we’ve been doing it our whole lives,” Daino said.

Daino said that Ska By SkaWest is one of the biggest ska festivals in the country, even though it is one of few.

“I can honestly say that DFW has one of the best scenes for ska music, so it makes total sense that there’s a huge festival happening here,” Daino said.

True to Daino’s words, there were several bands from the area at the festival.

Dallas’ The Broke$ threw beach balls into the audience that bounced around the venue throughout their set. Drawing heavily from punk and pop punk, Fort Worth band How’s My Driving adds ska flavor to the styles of similar bands, like Green Day.

When Denton’s Noogy played their first song, the crowd immediately formed a mosh pit. A few people in the audience even hopped onstage and sang along. Austin band Los Krados’ boxer-clad trombone player went into the pit to dance with the crowd. Their Spanish lyrics and energetic music left the audience chanting, “otra!”

Cherry said that the most important part of ska shows is the energy of the people who are attending.

“The people that are there that are into it, that’s really all that matters,” Cherry said. “The size of the venue doesn’t really matter as much.”

Ska By SkaWest originally started in Denton and was held in multiple venues including J&J’s Pizza and Andy’s Bar & Grill.

Madaline’s trombone player Samson Flancbaum said that it was difficult to keep track of multiple venues and that it is easier to draw a larger crowd in Dallas.

“Denton doesn’t have a massive crowd base to pull from like Dallas does, as much as we want it to,” Flancbaum said.

Originally from New York, Flancbaum went to UNT for his master’s degree studying euphonium, a small tuba. Flancbaum made his way to UNT to study under euphonium professor Brian Bowman.

“[He] was the most sought-after professor of euphonium in the country,” Flancbaum said. “Pretty much everyone wants to go study with Dr. Brian Bowman. I’m sure UNT will love me saying that.”

Flancbaum played in multiple bands in New York but missed the atmosphere of it when he came to Denton. 

He would eventually find interest in playing in a ska band because brass and wind instruments are usually restricted to classical music. He said that even though ska is not a popular genre, it is still as close as he can get to playing “popular music.”

“I got into playing this kind of music because it was something that I felt was the closest I could come to playing music that the average person would want to go see,” Flancbaum said. “Not just somebody who wants to go see classical because that’s not, unfortunately, the average person.”

While ska may not have a large presence in the national consciousness, the scene is even smaller in Brazil, which happens to be the home of the festival’s first international band, Abraskadabra, who closed the festival on Saturday.

Abraskadabra’s saxophone player and singer Thiago “Trosso” Jorge said that the scene in Brazil is “almost nonexistent.” He said it is harder for people there to widely share ska, punk and alternative music.

“[In the US,] you can play really small cities and there are people there that are into punk rock and ska,” Jorge said. “But in Brazil, it’s tough. We have to basically wait for a big band to play in our town or go after the gigs, like we did with a lot of American bands.”

Though the ska scene in Brazil isn’t huge, Abraskadabra has still managed to open for bands like Rise Against, Reel Big Fish, Goldfinger and Bad Religion.

Jorge was especially excited for this festival, calling it the most important gig of their U.S. tour. He said he hopes to not only have fun, but to network with bands and record labels to build an American audience.

“Every time we play with other ska bands, it’s just a fun time, and everyone is really into it,” Jorge said. “Everyone is trying to help each other.”

Abraskadabra’s performance not only helped the band’s growth but also proved how far the festival has come in just four years.

This growth isn’t going unnoticed, either. Kimberlin said more people are noticing the festival and that coordinating it is a way for him to be an advocate for the scene.

“I think it’s a way for me to give back and have fun and be proud of something that isn’t necessarily just my band,” Kimberlin said.

Featured Image: Expresión Clandestina perform at Ska by Skawest on Saturday at Three Links in Deep Ellum. Ska by Skawest started in 2015 and features local, national and international ska and punk bands. Sara Carpenter

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Camila Gonzalez

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