Sometimes I feel like we get stuck in this rut of K-pop or J-pop and we never step outside of it. We become attached to our genres and never venture past our comfort zones into raucous territory, inadvertently missing out on all the fun. So of course when I heard Oi! Skall Mates were coming to Los Angeles, I got out my decade old pair of steel toe Doc Martins, my rusty-ass suspenders, and my holy cardigan, ready to hit the pit for a flashback to my ska days!
Ahhh, ska. When punk is too hardcore and you need a lil’ dance hall beat rolled in. When your life isn’t complete without horns blaring in a song. When you suddenly have a crush on a trombone player who plays like he’s gonna die tomorrow. When life just isn’t fun enough, ska is there for you! But really, we never get to see international ska bands anymore. Ska itself has become such a niche genre now, it’s no longer found at every little concert hall across the country. As a matter of fact, the Latinx community is one of the few that keeps ska alive and well.
Oi! Skall Mates is a long standing favorite who’s never actually stepped foot on US soil! These guys are the classic ska heavyweights of Japan, so how could I pass up the chance to hear some of the premier Japanese ska classics live? Of all places, they chose LA to pop their US concert cherry, and I’m forever thankful.
The Union Club in Los Angeles has a rich history of goth clubs and industrial shows. Some of the most insane punk bands have graced both the first and second floors of this large club, and frankly, I hadn’t been there in 10 years. Obviously inner young punk Yaaaaaas was excited!
I got to Union to find the place packed like a giant sardine can, smelling of mosh pit and Pabst Blue Ribbon. There was indeed a pit roiling hard in the center of the massive dance floor while opening bands played to the crowd. This was a premier dive bar experience, complete with stage packed full of band members holding all manner of instruments, the biggest disco ball I’d ever seen hanging low above the churning mosh pit, and women with the biggest victory rolls to grace my memory. God I love vintage culture!
Oi! Skall Mates took the stage after a boxing ring type of introduction, a dedication to those who lost their lives in the recent Mexico earthquakes, and what amounted to a massive elaborate drum roll. The band boasts somewhere between 8 and 10 members: a drummer, multiple saxophone players, a keyboardist, multiple guitarists, a trombone player, and one hell of a lead-singing front man!
He stood out in his glittering purple suit and screamed into the microphone for song after song. With tracks like “Nishiogi Tokyo“, “Scooter Girl Scooter Boy“, “Skinhead Running“, “Justice Calling 69“, and “Ruder Rule“, the night flew by as fast as he swung the mic over his head and security snatched at crowd surfers.
Because I’m certifiably crazy, Empanada and I dove into the crowd and shot as much as we could while being tossed around and mashed up against the stage. It was a hell of a night that took me back to high school, days of sneaking into shows and skankin’ with the best of them!
I can’t help but think that 2017 has been the year of exploration. I decided I wanted to bring you all more shows and not just the typical mainstream stuff, but really delve into some of the best music to ever come out of Asia!
I hope Oi! Skall Mates comes back, and when they do, me and my suspenders will definitely be ready!