When we last saw Oi Skall Mates, the nine-piece ska band had just made their first appearance in the United States at the Union, one of best dive bars in Los Angeles. We were then invited back to sit down and talk about the 20-year legacy that is Japanese ska. Fresh off of their performance at Non Stop Ska Fest at Palacio De Los Deportes, Mexico City, suddenly Oi-Skall Mates was coming back with a bigger show, bigger lineup, and bigger sound!
With a large lineup of full brass ska bands on the bill, I was hyped for this long night! Beyond a concert, this was a festival of some of the best ska bands on the west coast, performing to a packed House Of Blues in Anaheim, California. I’ll admit, throughout my life, I’ve upheld a pretty eclectic taste, music-wise. It’s changed so much, yet here I was, back at my roots, watching ska bands perform live. We got to the venue, ready to roll with a collection of questions from readers and fans (Thank you Asian Junkie Twitter followers!), all the gear I could possibly carry on my back, and my A/V Goddess in tow. We were escorted into the maze that was the backstage of HOB and given all-access passes.
We lucked out with a single interpreter in a sea of Japanese language (with Spanish being thrown around!). Thinking he was a band member, I asked him “So what do you do?”, meaning what did he play … after which he informed me he was a waiter. We stared at each other and started to laugh. This was my introduction to this whole madcap experience.
We stepped into the green room and were greeted by half the band, looking exhausted and pretty chill, fresh from flying in from Mexico, as they meandered in and out of the door. The lead singer introduced himself and we got down to the business of hanging out, talking trash, and laughing at the language barrier. I don’t think I’ll ever do a normal interview.
It looks like we can expect new music from the band, for the first time in Japanese, as even though the band is from Japan, their music has always been performed in English. Watch the interview below:
Note: After all those tacos they mentioned they ate in Mexico, House Of Blues catering catered the night with tacos in the green room. Good thing they love them.
With opening performances from bands such as Gabriela Penka, Skapeche Mode, and Viernes 13, the crowd had already created a legit skank pit that was so big, it enveloped almost the entire ground floor of the venue! And yet not a single person was thrown out that night.
Finally, Oi-Skall Mates took the stage at 11 PM, decked out in luchador masks for the first song. They began to play the song “Omae” coupled with “When I Get A Law“. The lead singer stepping out in his sparkling royal purple leisure tuxedo, yellow ruffle cravat dress shirt, and matching Vans hightops. Not gonna lie, I totally squealed. He looked too fabulous as he shimmered sparkled in the stage lights, until he growled into the mic and said “hello” in English, Japanese, and Spanish.
“Justice Calling“, “Skinhead Running“, “Skunk“, and “Never Die” fired up the crowd as the show crept toward midnight. Every single person in the venue was moving, there was no stillness! From the kid up front with the giant blue mohawk to the members of the other bands watching from the back of the crowd, everyone was on their feet and moving to the music.
They then performed “No Name” and everyone got down hard! I’d never seen so many limbs flying about, and miraculously, unlike a punk or metal moshpit, no one took a blow. Ska’s just like that. One big skankin’ family moving in unison, looking much like dough being churned in a giant mixer to the sound of blaring horns and a righteous beat.
They performed “Come On” then rolled into “Skankin’ Class Ero“. By the time they performed “Soul Brother Stomp Together“, the crowd was screaming lyrics back to them, fists in the sky, not a phone in sight. “No Sleep Till Mexico” poured out of the speakers and I couldn’t help but to smile at the familiar sound.
“Hello, Rude Boy! Are you a Rude Boy!?” He yelled into the mic and the crowd went nuts as the “Rude Boy” began. They ended with “Scooter Boy Scooter Girl” and the band exited the stage.
We stood in the dark … an eerie silence fell over the crowd. Then one lone fan started the chant.
“Olé!!! Olé Olé Olé!!! Skall Mates! Skall Mates!” It gave me the heebee jeebees to hear a crowd that size go dead silent then suddenly start chanting in the dark, the smell of fresh beer and sweat in the air. I gripped my camera … knowing there had to be an encore as the crowd roared the call.
The band took the stage and started chanting back at the crowd the battle cry to “Nutty Sound“, and I ran for the front of the stage, Empanada held above my head as I volleyed through the crowd. A fan hopped the barrier, jumped on stage and started to dance as the music began and he stepped out. He danced with the fan before the fan was mysteriously pulled away. I looked down to lift my camera, looked up and suddenly …. BOOM! Nudity! They performed “Nutty Sound” with the lead singer stripping down to his underwear and house slippers and I just stood there staring in confusion! Luckily the crowd went sheer bananas and I got jostled into reality, lifting my camera to get my final shots.
The show ended, I found my A/V goddess on the other side of the stage and we left like two excited teens still hyped up from an amazing show. We compared favorite openers from Gabriela Penka, who mixed cumbias with ska that made my blood tingle, Skapeche Mode who performed 80s hit covers as ska songs tearing their instruments apart on stage and throwing them into the crowd. Mohawk kid went home excited with a piece of trombone. And finally Viernes 13, who were raw unadulterated ska with soul. I never thought I’d find my love for ska again, but here I was, much like I’d found my love for metal and rock, thanking talented Japanese musicians and artists for rekindling my love for random music genres.
Sometimes you gotta step outside your safety zone, put on your suspenders and skank with the best of them! I highly recommend you start with Oi Skall Mates.
Thank you to the A/V goddess, @ceceemagery, for accompanying me and assisting with the interview, and Akira for inviting Asian Junkie to participate in this event.