Ska bands have become something of a dying breed. Sure, many of the big tentpole third wave ska and ska punk bands of the ’90s are still trucking: Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, The Mighty Might Bosstones, Bid D and the Kids Table, and Goldfinger among them. What doesn’t bode so well is the fact that ska has become a musical movement without a discernable direction, or a significant crop of new bands to carry on its legacy. That makes the existence of a new ska band (and by “new” I mean post-2000) with the talent and recognition of Streetlight Manifesto all the more important and pertinent. I can’t think of a single other new ska band as well-known (aside from Westbound Train perhaps, but their approach is more old ska revivalist), and that puts the band in a unique position of bridging the gap between the genere’s legacy and its hopeful future.
Much has been debated about what to call the latest crop of ska bands, but it’s been generally decided that “fourth wave” isn’t quite applicable (though “third wave” is applied to an enormous stylistic range of bands within the genre). I don’t want to weigh much in on the discussion, except to say I’m inclined to agree that the fourth wave, the next reinvention of the genre , hasn’t happened yet. Streetlight Manifesto (itself an offshoot from decidedly “third wave” band Catch-22) are a continuation of a movement within the genre that exists, hopefully, to bridge a gap. The ska bands of now, the ones taking the groundwork of the genre and relentlessly pushing it forward in the face of its waning popularity, are the ones who will introduce it to a current generation perhaps too young to remember even the heyday of the most recent ska wave. It’s these bands, bands like Streetlight Manifesto, who stand the greatest chance to spark interest. Then hope interest breeds emulation. Then hope emulation breeds reinvention. Then hope reinvention breeds a legitimate, relevant fourth wave revival of the genre.
Are Streetlight Manifesto the saviors of ska? No, but they just might be responsible for its salvation anyway.
Supporting act Hostage Calm are to pop punk what Streetlight Manifesto are to ska. Pop punk, as a genre, has mostly been co-opted by pop bands making radio grabs by riding the stylistic coattails of artists like Blink-182, Green Day, and Fall Out Boy, and, in doing so, watering down what shred of “punk” the genre was still clinging to. Hostage Calm bear little stylistic resemblance to any of those bands, so much as the scene they sprang from. Taking a cue from peers such as The Gaslight Anthem, they’ve infused a great deal of earnest, Springsteen-eque heartland rock into their sound (although in much greater moderation than Gaslight) along with genuine, organic melodic sensibilities (this is a band very much grounded in punk, but totally unafraid to let their pop side run wild when it’s appropriate).
With their new record, Please Remain Calm, Hostage Calm has fully realized the sound they’ve spent several years shaping. Starting with a true punk rock backbone and attitude (the record reflects the bleakness and defeat of youth culture during a period of American decline), the fantastic album blends elements of pop and rock to produce a refreshing and refined re-imagining of a genre that has largely lost its footing. Like ska with Streetlight, the future of pop punk lies with bands like Hostage Calm- willing to distill a stylistic movement to its essence and continue its legacy for a sincere love of the genere. Hopefully a new generation of pop punk will arise as a reaction, and continue to push the style forward in a direction fans can be proud of.
Opening the show, Lionize bring to the table a more traditional reggae influence blended with straightforward rock and roll, often wavering on the side of old school heavy metal and psychedelic rock. Their latest album was produced by J. Robbins (of Jawbox fame) and they’ve shared the stage with the likes of Bad Brains, Reel Big Fish, and CKY, among others. Their presence is electrifying, their sound hypnotizing, and they’re a perfect stylistic bridge to bind their fellow performers. This is a show you want to arrive to early, because every band on the bill is top-notch.
Streetlight Manifesto, Hostage Calm, and Lionize are performing tonight at Exit/In. The show starts at 8PM (7PM doors) and tickets are still available here.