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Open wide and say ‘Ska!’

by The Concordian October 11, 2011
Open wide and say ‘Ska!’

An awesome lineup of bands from around the world will descend on Montreal on Oct. 13, 14, and 15 for Montreal Ska Fest 2011. Some of them have had a major impact on this historic genre.

Check out volunteer-run Montreal Ska Fest this year from Oct. 13-15 at a variety of venues around Montreal.

“Its true birth was in the late ‘50s in Jamaica,” says Montreal Ska Fest spokesperson Lorraine Muller. “Musicians mixed the local folk music, ‘Mento,’ with the R&B they were hearing on the radio from the States. This music became the pop music of the ‘60s and people attended large community dances to live bands playing the style. Now the style has been melded with so many varied flavours that it’s hard to pin down what ‘ska’ is.”

As difficult as it is to define ska musically, it’s equally challenging to label the multi-faceted culture surrounding it.
“To some people, ska culture simply represents unity,” explains Muller. “Ska became popular with working-class kids in England in the ‘70s and was a way of rebelling against prejudice or racial tension in the working-class neighbourhoods. To others, it represents a fashion, or a look with which they can identify.

To many, it represents both.”
This spirit of unity is exactly what the Montreal Ska Society is trying to promote through the MSF. With tickets for the biggest shows selling for less than $20 in advance, the experience is accessible to virtually everyone willing to embrace it. A whopping five bands per night is definitely something worth cherishing.
A large portion of the talent that will be featured over the course of these three nights is local.

“Once a year, instead of playing at small venues, we give bands the opportunity to share the stage with major international acts, legendary performers,” says Muller. “The goal is to attract people from different backgrounds by having a wide variety of ska-based acts, and hopefully get people to discover one of our local bands. By keeping our ticket prices as low as possible, we hope to catch the eyes of passers-by and invite them to come and find out what the buzz is all about.”
And the buzz is huge, as some of the world’s premier ska bands will be taking the stage.

Jamaican band The Skatalites, who Muller credits for “almost single-handedly creating the style” will be taking the stage at Club Soda (1225 St-Laurent ) on Friday night. NYC’s The Toasters will also be celebrating their 30th anniversary at Club Soda on Saturday. And that’s just a taste of the talent coming from out of town.

“Mingled among the great bands playing this year are Mr. T-Bone (Italy) coming for the first time to Montreal, Eastern Standard Time (Washington, D.C.) who haven’t been here in over a decade, and Void Union (Boston) whom we’re [also] sharing with Montrealers for the first time,” says Muller. “Not to mention many local acts and bands from Winnipeg and Toronto.”

All this is undoubtedly very exciting for ska fans, but if you’re new to ska music and looking to get your feet wet, a good place to start would be Petit Campus (57 Prince Arthur E.) on Thursday night, where you can get a small live taste with The Fabulous Lolo and The Thundermonks, starting at 10:30 p.m. for only $5.

Check out montrealskafestival.ca for details and program listings.

Thursday Oct. 13
The Aggrolites and Roots of Creation
Cafe Campus – 57 Prince-Arthur E.

The Fabulous Lolo and The Thundermonks
Petit Campus – 57 Prince-Arthur E.

Friday Oct. 14
The Skatalites, Mr. T-Bone, Danny Rebel & The KGB, Eastern Standard Time, and The Ska-Mones
Club Soda – 1225 St-Laurent

Free afterparty featuring live music by The Harmonauts
L’Absynthe – 1738 St-Denis

Saturday Oct. 15
The Toasters, The Void Union, The Hangers, The Afterbeat, and Reggae Dubline Corporation
Club Soda – 1225 St-Laurent

Free afterparty featuring live music by The Skinny
L’Absynthe – 1738 St-Denis

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