Texans and locals keep ska sound alive for listeners

Ska music will be back in Durango tonight with a doubleheader by Dallas’ Rude King at Ska Brewing Co. in Bodo Park, followed by a nightcap set at The Summit.

Joining Rude King at the Summit will be Buster’s Ghost, a new local ska band.

Buster’s Ghost came to me as a welcome surprise. When I first started writing this column, I was unaware that locally there was an authentic ska band. I can count on one hand the number of Ska record labels that still exist in this country.It’s a genre that has had its ups and downs, and this is a down time. When I wandered into The Summit and saw the last four songs of Buster’s Ghost’s set,I was glad I hadn’t put my foot (or pen) in my mouth bemoaning the death of a genre.

That’s because a kickass Ska band exists in Durango – and the players look as comfortable on the stage as a band that has been out playing for years. Which it hasn’t. That Summit show was the band’s debut. The bandwill also play Saturday at the VFW. In September, it will be the headline act for Reel Big Fishat Ska Brewing Co.’s anniversary party. Look for more on them in this column in the coming weeks.

Back to Rude King. It’s a big outfit, especially for the Summit stage. Matt Glickman plays guitar, Rob Tovar plays drums, Justin Rush plays bass, Jon Bravo does vocals, Vicki Tovar does vocals, Houston Bogus plays trombone, Jesse Speer plays trombone and Chris Dickson plays saxophone. Bravo formed the band in 2003 in Chicago, where it played for a couple of years before Bravo and a former member relocated to Dallas. The band then reformed with an all-Dallas cast. It is about to release a new album, funded by a Kickstarter campaign that has already met its goal.

Despite that support, the band is still trying to win over audiences in its hometown.

“Ska is not a popular genre of music in Dallas,” Bravo said last week by phone before pulling out on tour. “It’s still pretty underground.The joke we say is,‘if you are trying to make money at this then Ska is the wrong genre to be doing music.’”

I’d argue that most genres are the wrong genres to make money. But the band’s take on it is all-classic, third-wave ska, playing upbeat rowdy numbers with the classic crunch of rock guitars, dual male/female vocals and an aggressive horn section. Somewhere in the 80s,ska bands started carrying punk aggression, and Rude King continues to push that sound. Attribute that to Bravo’s love of all things ska, and the different musical palettes of all the band members.

“I think our music appeals to a wide audience. Even though we are a ska band, all of us pull in our different influences from other music that we like,” Bravo said.

“You can hear that in the songs, and usually we pretty easily can catch peoples’ ears, even if they’re not ska fans. And the centerpiece of our sound is the big horn riffs we have.”

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.