Does the OC Ska Scene Really Care About a Fourth Wave?

OC Weekly - As an artist coming up in the current era of ska, one memory that Tahlena Chikami from Bite Me Bambi will never forget was the time she shared the stage with a band that was around before anyone knew or cared about the waves that would follow from the sounds they made. 

“We’ve been very lucky that we have gotten to play some really awesome shows in a short amount of time,” Chikami says. “But, I think opening for The Selecter was really cool for the whole band because they were such a huge entity for the ska scene in the 1980s.”

Chikami is referring to the Glass House show where they were chosen to open for UK ska legends The Selecter, a band that debuted in 1979. She described how front woman Pauline Black was always a role model for her because of how smart she was and how much she did for ska.

Now, as Bite Me Bambi’s popularity grows, the band is becoming a marquee act in their own right. The band just announced their first big headlining show in The Parish in the Anaheim House of Blues on March 29.

Being a fresh face in ska, Chikami is aware of the groups of people who go to ska shows in OC right now. 

“Ska spans so many age groups and that is one of the things I love about the genre. People who are older remember things like rocksteady and middle-aged remember things from the 1980s or the third wave of ska and then they bring their kids and their kids bring their kids. That is how I got into ska,” Chikami says.

An element that is helping the ska scene stay alive in OC are the booking agents who believe in small ska bands and in reviving the music. One company that is big in the world of ska is Pocket Entertainment, a company co-founded by musician Cameron Hallenbeck (of the ska band Half Passed Two) and Whitney Dunkle.

“Our company books all kinds of events but we do tend to focus more on ska music,” Hallenbeck says.

Pocket Entertainment was the company that put on Skamicon at the Garden Amp in Garden Grove over the summer, the show where Bite Me Bambi made their debut.

New ska bands are being discovered every day and new shows are being put on almost every weekend in Orange County. People who travel to Orange County have some sort of mental image of ska because of the bands that became popular here and started off as ska groups like No Doubt, Hallenbeck says. He also spoke of his hopes that the music does become popular again because of the fresh, new talent like BMB. He’s not alone in that assessment.

 “The lead singer, Tahlena, is going to be the next big thing to come out of Orange County,”says Jimmy Alvarez, a radio DJ for KX93.5 FM and overall music lover. “She is just as talented as Gwen Stefani, in my opinion.” 

Alvarez has been doing radio for over 25 years and is a believer in ska making a comeback in OC with a fourth wave.

According to Alvarez, the aspect that made ska take off in the 1990s was the love that radio gave to the OC bands. Alvarez also said he was crossing his fingers that the last No Doubt album in 2012 would be the trigger a fourth wave.

If ska was to have a fourth wave in Orange County like it did in the 1990s, with it might come the stigma of the genre being mocked or disregarded in the scope of today’s popular music.

“More than the genre becoming popular again, I really just want to see the overall consensus of people who may know what it is to not see it as a joke genre,” Hallenbeck says. “Many people don’t take it serious and it’s unfortunate.”

One person who does take it seriously and has dedicated his life to the genre is the “Ska Father” himself, Tazy Phyllipz. Phyllipz is the creator of Ska Parade, the 30-year-old radio show known for being a major platform for those who were in the third wave of ska and even for those in the current day scene.

Ska Parade also helped jumpstart many ska music careers during the 1990s and continues to spread the sounds of ska to Orange County to this day and is helping new bands get their voices heard.

Something that Phyllipz and Alvarez have in common is the belief that ska will make its comeback through another great ska band from OC making it big. According to Phyllipz, the band that is leading the charge for a takeover is the LA ska/punk band  The Interrupters.

“All you need is one good band who puts out one good song that gets radio love and then you just watch and see,” Alvarez says while recalling a conversation he had with Aaron Barrett from the ska band Reel Big Fish.

Another element that has been helping bring ska into the spotlight again are the festivals and shows being put on every year. One of the bigger festivals is Back To The Beach, which features some of the more popular bands in ska. Some of those bands include The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake.

While there are big festivals like Back To The Beach, there are fun tours like the Skacademy Awards, aka the Oskars–which just celebrated its fourth installment over the weekend, featuring a lineup consisting of Monkey, Half Past Two, B Sharps, and Hooray For Our Side. Regardless of how this era of OC ska is labeled, there’s no question it’s definitely still active.

“Fourth wave of ska is funny because I think we are all trying to figure out what that means. We are all wondering if it’s here and if we’re doing it, which is funny because when third wave was happening no one was sitting around knowing they were in the ‘third wave’,” Chikami says.

Some locals seem to want the fourth wave to happen and completely overtake Orange County again and some may are fine with remembering the old days with memories and music. Those who are in ska bands seem to be fine just playing the music and having a good time doing it.

“There’s an amazing scene here in Orange County where everyone is very supportive and if you’re kind of an outcast you can be welcomed in,” Chikami says. “I would play ska no matter what and even if no one was showing up I would still be there asking people if they remember skanking.”