The Politics of Skanking
With its bouncy rhythms and upbeat tempo, today's ska is often regarded as happy (if not escapist) party music sung by dweeby kids with dweeby kid concerns. What people forget, though, is that for a long time (and a long time ago), ska was activist music, its jagged upstrokes punctuating the politics of racial strife and a desired unity.
Mike Park, the singer in a number of ska bands and owner of northern California-based Asian Man Records, is doing his damnedest to fuse the two once more. In 1998, Park launched the Ska Against Racism tour; now he's put together the Plea for Peace trek, featuring the Blue Meanies, MU330, Alkaline Trio, Link 80, Lawrence Arms, Honor System, Dan Potthast, Venice Shoreline and Chris Murray.
The Chicago-based Blue Meanies play a frenetic blend of hardcore, punk, jazz and ska (their new album, The Post Wave, comes out in September). According to the band, the work reflects the recent growing up they've done, and, according to their bio, it's a "kaleidoscope of melody, harmony and rhythm." Hmmm . . . the Blue Meanies never had melody before, so hopefully they won't be worse for the addition of it; Blue Meanies-182 would not be a good thing.
But Plea for Peace isn't just a tour. It's also a CD compilation; a nonprofit organization (Park's goal is to raise $15,000 for various charities); and a magazine featuring stories about homelessness, racism, child abuse, spousal abuse, drug abuse, alcohol abuse and other such -isms and abuses. Perhaps you're wondering how these tours, aside from the canned-food drives held at each concert (bring something to the Chain Reaction shows and you'll get the Plea for Peace CD), actually do anything to change anything.
Or perhaps it's just me. Park addresses this on the Plea for Peace website (www.pleaforpeace.com), saying that obviously peace and unity are impossible goals, but they're what we should strive for. It's awareness and thought that these tours are attempting to stimulate.
And, really, like you're changing anything by sitting on your ass?
PLEA FOR PEACE AT CHAIN REACTION, 1652 W. LINCOLN AVE., ANAHEIM, (714) 635-6067. WED.-THURS., JULY 13, 7:30 P.M. $10. ALL AGES.
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