Ska Mic Con
Out of the Park Pizza
In some ways, ska scenes are kind of like branches of a religion. The East Coast, Midwest, SoCal, and other scenes each have their own stylistic nuances. What they all seem to have in common is that they all subsist at a level that is just below mainstream awareness, and they are all trying to gain that extra inch. The second annual Ska Mic Con is testament to the OC Ska Scene’s desire to unite more bands with one another and with their fans, and ignite a signal flame that will herald the coming of ska’s fourth-wave.
Getting its name from a play on Comic Con, the mega comic / cosplay / genre convention which occurs during the same weekend, Ska Mic Con was situated in the parking lot behind Out of the Park Pizza, which co-hosted the event along with Pocket Entertainment. After negotiating the parking, which ironically was not available in the parking lot containing the stage, I arrived mid-day on Friday, the first day of the two-day event.
The ska punk band Kill Lincoln, from Washington DC, was already the ninth band scheduled for the day. As soon as the five-piece band started performing, their official hype machine / sixth member, Drew Skibitsky, launched into action. For the duration of their very tight and enjoyable set, Drew ran around the stage and throughout the audience, spiking everyone’s enthusiasm by dancing, hopping, kicking, and cheering with a seemingly endless amount of energy. Next up, local heroes Codename: Rocky took the reins and the eight-piece bands held tight for the duration of their 45 minute set. Prior to playing a great ska arrangement of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven,” they thanked the fans for coming out despite the heat and pointed out that at least there were some shady areas available.
Indeed, there was a nice little nook next to the stage, which was shaded by trees. On the other side of the festival’s grounds, there were a couple of large picnic umbrellas providing some shade. There was also a nice misting runway set up, which showered those not afraid to get wet with cool water. Beyond that, the multiple vendor tents provided a little respite for their owners and guests.
The next act to hit the stage was The Maxies. Given The Maxies are a punk band, they were not strictly-speaking keeping with the ska theme; however, since their zany stage antics and lighthearted but intense jamming were right at home within the context of the Orange County ska ethos, everyone seemed fine with that. Moreover, their irreverent humor and cheeky confrontational style was hugely successful at gaining the favor of everyone in attendance. Interestingly, their set was ten minutes shorter than that of the bands which had just preceded them and of the band which would follow them.
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Suburban Legends were up next. The band performed a terrific set as the sun went down, which coincided with the shutting off of the misting station and the turning on of the stage lights. By now, what had been a conservative audience size had increased to the point that it was difficult to get near the stage. As SoCal DJ / OC Weekly contributor / OC ska scene champion Jimmy Alvarez pointed out, the late arrivals were likely a result of the logistics of the festival’s location and time; that is, traffic on the 91 and the fact that day one was on a Friday may have contributed to a lower attendance earlier in the day. Alvarez had introduced the preceding bands and was looking forward to introducing the final act of the day, Reel Big Fish.
The legendary third-wave ska band kicked off their set with “Sayonara Señorita,” and for the better part of an hour, original Big Fish singer / guitarist Aaron Barrett and the current line-up kept the audience bopping along to their rockin’ ska tunes. Naturally, they played “Sell Out,” “Take On Me,” “Beer,” and “She Has a Girlfriend Now.” Also featured were: “Everything Sucks,” “Your Guts (I Hate ‘em),” “Trendy,” and “I Want Your Girlfriend To Be My Girlfriend Too.” Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stick around for the festival’s after party, which featured four additional acts and kept the fun going until 1:00am. Day two was to feature a similarly packed schedule, with after party, and headliners The Phenomenauts and Less Than Jake. Whether or not the Ska Mic Con is, indeed, the path for bringing ska into a new age is a matter for music historians, but what is certain is that this was a great event, featuring some terrific talent, and a thoroughly satisfied audience.