Managed by Little Pedro’s vocalist and trumpet player, Martin Vogt, this years’ Ska and British Music Festival once again filled the beer garden, room 459 and the main stage at The Rosemount Hotel in Perth, W.A.
In it’s third year, the festival felt like a reunion of sorts – a tribute to the Ska, Ska-Punk, Brit Pop, Brit Rock, Madchester and Rocksteady scenes of the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s.
Skanking like I’ve never seen anyone skank before….
Everywhere you look there are Trilbies, Bowlers, Derbies, Homburgs, Pork Pies, Fedoras, and Top Hats perched atop bopping heads. There are Rude Boys, Rude Girls, Rockabillies, Mods, and skinheads mingling on the dance floor, uniting in their salutes as they raise their glasses and chant along to the music. You can’t help but admire the drainpipe trousers, the button-down shirts, polos, skinny ties, overcoats, the braces, the wayfarer shades and of course, the shoes…
The loafers, the Brogues, the Doc Martens, the Winkle Pickers, and the Monkey Boots – this is the kind of footwear worn by people who know how to party – the movers and groovers, who, like me, just know that they can’t deny the raw energy produced by the forward driving brass sections and the distinctive bass lines of Ska music – they don’t even need to be on the dance floor, the music takes over and they start skanking on the spot.
This year’s line-up featured Skarper, Loads, Captain Pugwash and the Cabin Boys, Little Pedro, Dilip ‘n The Davs, Tube, The Donald Trumpets, John Peel Experience, and The Generators with DJs John Pentland, Mumma Trees, General Justice and Upfront ‘n Central playing tunes between set changes in Room 459 and the Main Stage.
Vogt planned this well, he gets the venue and his selection of DJs featured in the lineup was spot on. The festival kicked off around 5:30pm with popular Perth DJ, John Pentland, joining the festival for the first time and warming up the crowd – again, another good decision on Vogt’s behalf as it meant that when Skarper took to the stage at 6pm a decent crowd had formed and everyone was on their feet dancing from the very beginning.
Switching between room 459 and the main stage, I managed to catch all of the bands and it was clear from the get-go that these musicians have a dedicated fan base. Some have been in the scene for over 3 decades and they have witnessed the popularity of Ska music amongst the different generations fluctuate. After speaking with several band members, it was pretty clear that many believe this genre needs to find a contemporary audience, it needs to start attracting and building a younger fan base to survive.
Right now, the consensus is that Ska Music fans are of a particular age, that they like covers and that they want to hear the tried and tested, familiar songs from their youth, the songs with lyrics they know by heart, that they can sing along to and yes, with most of the bands playing covers – it does seem that this is the case – on the surface at least.
A by-product of the “play covers that the people want to hear” mindset resulted in a lot of the bands at the festival having a similar sound, there was a sense of sameness and it is understandable then that some of the not-so-hardcore fans and less-seasoned patrons would struggle to tell them apart, to remember each band individually. The bands that stood out on the night were those that featured covers heard less often and that included originals in their set-list.
Take Skarper, for example, they had a bit of a two-tone sound and they unapologetically played a set-list that featured the songs they like, that are different from what you would expect, songs that people haven’t heard for years such as “Deceives The Eyes” by Madness.
Whilst all of the bands delivered those famous bouncing rhythms and drew in crowds that packed the rooms, the draw cards for me were: Loads with their original “Life So Strange” – Little Pedro’s original “Skamenko” – Dilip n’ The Davs with the launching of their new single “That’s Not Love” and significantly, The Donald Trumpets ; a 6 piece band that had the crowd skanking like I’ve never seen anyone skank before!! Why significantly? Because these musicians might just be the answer to the question that everyone seems to be asking – how do we attract more of a contemporary, younger crowd to the Ska Music scene? If it were up to me, I’d start by getting The Donald Trumpets on your bill – not just because they’re exceptional musicians but also because they are the youth that you’re trying to attract.