On Saturday night, ska fans, legends, and those who love them congregated on the outdoor patio of an Anaheim Hills pizzeria in an event that will go down as one of the most quintessentially Orange County things to have ever transpired: the Skacademy Awards.
My crew and I arrived in our checkered and two-toned best just as the event was getting started. Equally excited and confused, we piled out of the car and headed toward a retail building labeled Party Party, but found the awards show set up steps away in what felt like a converted service alley between Out of the Park Pizza and a quaint spot called Phó 2012. We checked in at the swanky and well put together greeting table, grabbed our programs, and hit the red carpet just in time for the People’s Choice Awards while Rick “Sir Skank A lot” was recognized for his achievements in the ska dance art of skanking.
Other People’s Choice Awards given out were Biggest Ska Nerd (Jessica Shaw), Best Dressed Skanker (Aaron Laurence), Best Drinker (All the Way Jay Maxie), Best Hair (given to the very bald Jeremy Mangubat), Most Checkered (Lucas Jakobi), and Ska Band MVP (Veg McCoy). Right away, the vibe was an infectious concoction of parody and celebration, with old friends catching up, kids and parents cheering from all corners of the space, and men in full white formal wear slurping spaghetti at the bar, all set to the soundtrack of 3rd wave ska while confused onlookers stood vaping in the periphery.
Karate in the Garage took the stage promptly at 8:30 p.m. and delivered an energetic and hard hitting set, igniting a skank pit that eventually decimated the DIY red carpet. The Huntington Beach based ska-punk foursome were nominated for 5 Skacademy Awards, and have made a name for themselves as a band to watch in the local scene. Originals like “Tickets to the Gun Show” and “Trampoline Nights” were crowd pleasers, and their cover of No Doubt’s “Sunday Morning” blew everyone away with what became the most enthused half drunken sing-along dance party I’ve ever been a part of. They closed with what I’m pretty sure was a feminist influenced 3rd wave ska song, stealing a bit of my heart and solidifying Karate in the Garage as my favorite performance of the night.
After a quick intermission and a $20 pitcher, my friends and I made our way back to pit littered with the tattered remains of the red carpet to watch Ska Parade founder Tazy Phillipz announce the Ska Band Awards. This segment honored bands for Best ‘80s Cover (Skapeche Mode “Send Me an Angel”), Best ‘90s Cover (Karate in the Garage “Sunday Morning”, Best 2000’s Cover (Hooray for Our Side “Valerie”), Most Ska-Punk (Eve of Destruction), and two of the most coveted awards of the night: Most Upstrokes (Failed to Victory), and Horniest Horn Section, which went to Stupid Flanders amidst boos in what felt like a ska parody of Dave Chappel’s Haters Ball skit. Skapesche Mode took the stage right on time, playing their unique brand of ska and covers, centering Depesche Mode and alternative music from the ‘80s and ‘90s.
The band gained traction over the last year in both the ska and tribute communities, drawing large crowds to local hot spots like HOB Anaheim and Alex’s Bar. Their set was tight, featuring surprises such as confetti explosions over checkered crowd surfers, and classics like “Send me an Angel,” and a ska cover of an old entertainment industry classic “Hollywood” which they turned to ‘Ska-llywood” making the event feel like a real star studded affair. Inspired by Skapesche Mode’s Awards Show vibes, my friend attempted to purchase champagne to class up her night. Unfortunately Out of the Park Pizza couldn’t supply her with an ice bucket and André, so she settled for a pizza and a cherry coke.
After more awards won seemingly all by The Maxies, the newest band on the bill (featuring Skacademy Awards organizer Cameron Hallenbeck) Comrade Cat took the stage at 10:30 p.m., a bold move considering the headlining draw and energy of Skapesche Mode. People were getting sleepy, but despite the dwindling numbers the band delivered a great, high energy set to an enthusiastic crowd of friends. Their Star Wars cover drew cheers and a slew of Star Wars references from the crowd, which eventually turned into an epic light saber battle in the pit. I enjoyed their set, and spent a majority of it coming up with ska puns with friends, giving our own Skacademy Award for best pun to my friend for his great work thinking up “The Iowa Skacus,” with “New York Ska Exchange” coming in a close second.
By the 11p.m. closing awards the crowd had dwindled to less than half of what it was during Skapesche Mode. Tazy Phillipz helped announce “Ska Band We Wish Would Come Back Already Award (Chase Long Beach), Best Live Act (Starpool), and Best New Band (Comrade Cat), but was interrupted by a young man who recognized Tazy Phillipz with the Impact Award for his tireless efforts and dedication to ska music and Orange County over the last 20 years. Phillipz, who earlier in the night shared his excitement about the ceremony with me, gave an impromptu speech expressing his gratitude while a group of ska kids skanked in the corner. “I like to lift people up,” Phillipz said, “and ska has been a huge part of that for me.”
Amid all its quirkiness, the Skacademy Awards was a great event ripe with scrappy spirit, dedication, and DIY charm. While there could have been more space, a better condensed awards segment with more band diversity, and a little more practice announcing winners, the event was a total success and achieved their vision of celebrating all things OC ska. Lots of people showed up enthused and ready to celebrate in their best ska and formal wear, laughed, danced, and shared stories about the scene and the impact of ska on their lives. The vibe was uplifting, the event was well executed, and the pizza was on point. I can’t wait to see what the Orange County ska community and Skacademy Awards folks have up their sleeve for 2017.