When I was about 18, one of my friends introduced me to ska music. I'd always been partial to reggae, dancehall, and rocksteady - music I'd heard sporadically in my life - but didn't really know a lot about the style in general. Two of my friends were totally immersed in the punk and ska scene at the time and through them, I found my love for traditional and third-wave ska. I'm a sucker for a good horn section in any genre of music and both of these nailed it for me. As soon as I heard the first chords of my first Hepcat song (this one specifically, I just remembered) I knew I needed to start branching out from the radio crap and alternative music that was everywhere.
When I was about 21, I was coming home from work, blasting Save Ferris' It Means Everything album. I don't know if you've ever heard Monique Powell sing, but that woman can BELT. I can barely hold a note but Lies was one of my favorite songs and when it came on I, of course, sang along. I'd never been able to hit her notes fully because I just don't have her kind of lungs, but thought that I'd take advantage of being alone in my car to sing as loudly as I could. Maybe then I could hit her notes! So there I was, speeding down Los Feliz Blvd., singing at the top of my lungs and doing the song a modicum of justice. Then she got to the part I always cut off at - a long, intense wail of "LIIIIIIEEEEEESSSS" that ends the whole long, intense bridge of the song. I was DETERMINED to hit that note. I hollered so long and so loud I actually made myself dizzy and nearly passed out while driving. I had to stop singing just to catch my breath.
My friends and I spent our late teens/early twenties traveling up and down the California coast to watch our favorite bands perform. I can't even count the amount of times we saw Hepcat, Slow Gherkin, Pharmaceutical Bandits (now Rx Bandits), Dancehall Crashers, Mad Caddies, Codename:Rocky, Edna's Goldfish, Alkaline Trio (they are not now nor were they ever any form of ska, but we saw them play A LOT, too), and dozens of other small bands play. I even went to see the Mighty Mighty Bosstones all by myself once, my friends all being unavailable or away at college.
As it goes with indie music, most of the bands I listened to at the time no longer exist. Or they've evolved into a different sound altogether. One of the perks of living in LA since the end of the all-too-brief ska revival that spawned more popular groups like Sublime and No Doubt was getting to see Hepcat play their yearly reunion shows. We've gone every year - well, I did until I moved to Miami, anyway - and it's still an awesome experience getting to listen to the live version of music that defined so much of our youth. I can credit that time of my life for being the first time I realized there was a whole world of music I knew nothing about and that just because it didn't come from a major label or wasn't part of the regular MTV rotation (remember when they actually played music videos?) didn't mean it wasn't worth seeking out. In fact, it usually meant it was better.
"Lies" just came on my iTunes and prompted this little trip down memory lane. I'm happy to report I still can't hit that goddamned note.
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