By Alex Distefano
By Daniel Kohn
By Aimee Murillo
By Nick Schou
By Nate Jackson
By Nate Jackson
By Dave Lieberman
By Daniel Kohn
Let's go back to . . . say, 1996 or so, when ska had Orange County gripped tightly in its checkered fist. You'd hear horn sections honking at Milano Music in Orange, you'd recognize on MTV people you went to high school with, and you'd absorb ska from the air itself—if you were within a 2-mile radius of KUCI, where DJ Tazy Phyllipz made himself the John Peel of ska with his show, The Ska Parade.
And you'd be excited about My Superhero's then-upcoming Solid State 14 album, and you'd never think that in 2011, you'd get a chance to hear those songs (and more) live one last time. Brian Gilmore didn't, anyway. The singer for My Superhero thought once the band played their last show at his wedding in 2003, they were done for good. So when Phyllipz casually asked if they'd ever do a reunion, Gilmore laughed it off: "Never gonna happen!"
But anyone who remembers the heyday of ska in Orange County will also recall Phyllipz has a way of getting things done. "My Superhero never got a proper farewell show," he explains. "They sorta sputtered out many years ago. And I wanted to correct this and provide a fresh opportunity for ska fans—old and new—to see them one more time."
My Superhero weren't Orange County's biggest ska-influenced band—certainly that's No Doubt—and they weren't surprise break-outs like Reel Big Fish, either. But maybe they would have been, with the right opportunity. They'd earned a Los Angeles Times write-up by longtime OC music writer Mike Boehm, who praised My Superhero for having "the best batch of songs I've heard among the local ska scene's grassroots contenders."
"I try to listen to the songs and remember what I was going through," Gilmore says now. With the rest of the band members (Mike Berault, Dan Park and Huey Huynh, plus fill-in drummer Tim Bivens, whose first-ever show was My Superhero), he was recently picking songs from the first two albums to relearn. "I know I used to sit in my room when my girlfriend broke up with me—a really bad breakup—and just barricade myself in. I was 20 or 21 at the time, and all I did was write and write. That was my escape."
After two well-received albums, however, My Superhero connected with Risk Records for their 1999 album, Station One—a relationship that would accelerate their demise. Inspired by bands such as Jimmy Eat World and the Get-Up Kids, My Superhero wanted to move in a more sophisticated direction. But the label was determined to get the ska-punk band it had paid for, which culminated in a drunken studio session with a frustrated band playing every new song they had as sarcastic dumbed-down ska, says Gilmore. "If we'd never talked to any labels," Gilmore says, "we would have been a lot happier!"
It wasn't much later that My Superhero experienced one of their most infamous moments, with a posting by Gilmore on the band's email list during a debate about Proposition 22, which led to a state law—overturned in 2008—limiting marriage to heterosexual couples. After receiving an anonymous fax of Gilmore's post in April 2000, the Weekly excerpted portions of his attacks on "gays, liberals, 'left-wing socialist college professors' and 'Red China.'" Gilmore issued an apology (on the advice of Marilyn Manson's publicist, he says now) a week later and regrets the incident now. "From my view now, I wish the whole thing could have been erased or never happened," he says. "I know it hurt some people, and now I'd be on the total opposite side."
Like Gilmore, Berault thought My Superhero were gone forever, he says. But he's ready to bring it back for one night only. It's a reunion for him, too—but with his friends as much as his band. "Our bass player, Dan [Park], used to say this all the time, and it used to bug me," he says. "'You know what? We're just friends, and this is what we do. If we didn't do this, maybe we'd be in a bicycle club or something. We just like one another's company!' And it was true. We want to hang, so this is what we do. We're all gonna be able to enjoy ourselves for one night, and where it goes from there—who knows?"
This article appeared in print as "One Last Horn Blast: OC ska semi-legends My Superhero return for the farewell show they never had."