I came, I ska, I conquered
This past Saturday I went to a ska concert. What is ska you ask? Wikipedia, or as I call it ‘old reliable’ (yes this is sarcasm), defines ska as music “characterized by a walking bass line, accented guitar or piano rhythms on the offbeat, and in some cases, jazz-like horn riffs”. I personally consider ska ‘preppy punk’ (those in the band often wear collared shirts, vests, and ties) but you get a great mix of people at these concerts. I did find out something from my visit to wiki-land. Apparently, the form of ska that I know it as, with bands such as ‘Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ ‘Sublime’ ‘No Doubt’ ‘Reel Big Fish’ and ‘Streetlight Manifesto’, is a bastardized version of Caribbean music. White culture taking, and commercially profiting, from black culture, I am so stunned that I am speechless.
This concert was not my first ska experience. Given that I now attended ska concerts on two continents, I feel comfortable enough to explain the experience. Note: the following description applies only to those who are crazy enough to try to get up close thereby entering the easily indefinable, and therefore avoidable, ‘pit’.
Imagine yourself being on an airplane with no seats and set up loud speakers everywhere. Add a metal fence around the only exit and pack this airplane with hundreds of people, successfully turning this plane into what a person suffering from claustrophobia would call hell. Hire a drunken, novice pilot and have them fly through bowel-shaking turbulence. Everyone is standing, near deaf, tightly packed, hot, sweaty and clawing for position to get out (well actually they just want to get a better view/bragging rights).
Turbulence hits and the pilot over-corrects which gives you the feeling you are caught in a human wave which tears you in one direction, then the opposite. Within a few minutes in you position yourself in the airline safety ‘crash position’, arms out and bracing for certain death, however you are standing and your head is locked upright as if you have an inhuman desire to see the ending of the in-flight movie.
At the back of the plane, someone gets the brilliant idea to utilize this dense crowd to carry them across the fence. Surf’s up dude, here comes the crowd surfers. They ride the mass and approach the gate, it seems their brilliant plan is working and freedom is in sight. That is when the bouncers strike.
These creatures, known as bouncers or concert security, have the determination of obsessive-compulsive voluntary border guards with many of the characteristics of ground hogs. You barely notice them until they poke their heads above the crowd. They take a quick scan with their wee looking-balls and then they either return to the underground or grab a crowd surfer to whisk them off to oblivion. No one likes the security people, if fact I’m sure they hate themselves, but they do serve a purpose. That purpose is to act like weather vein/barometer for trouble. If you see one of them going into ‘pointer’ mode, like the hunting dog, directly in front of you then you know there is trouble. Generally, this only means that a crowd surfer is coming your way and you should brace yourself accordingly. No matter what the security points out to you, it is an invaluable service, remember punks often wear studs, spikes, heavy boots or all of the above.
Now while I may place the emphasis on seemingly negative characteristics I must state that had a blast. I also noticed that if someone where to fall down those around the injured would form a human barrier thereby effectively curbing further pain to the wounded. Great camaraderie and an overwhelming sense that ‘this is nuts but we love it’ abounds at this event. After a quick taxi ride home it hits me, to me ska is a hell of a good night. This night will leave its mark in my mind and temporarily leave its mark on my body in the form of random bruises.