I once played in ska band ("not in 'Nam, of course" )*. In fact, we even opened for The Toasters, and Reel Big Fish as well. It was the summer of 2004, I was 21 years old and the oldest member of the band. The band, itself, sprung out from the western suburbs Milwaukee, Wisconsin, specifically the ska-haven of Pewaukee. I believe I even have a review of our show with The Tosters. Let's see…
Indeed, two poorly rehearsed Wisconsin ska bands opened for New York vets the Toasters at a two-thirds empty Luther’s Blues last Sunday night as part of that decades-old band’s 'Ska Brawl' tour." - Tom Laskin, "21st-century ska," The Isthmus, 2004
Needless to say, The Toasters were great that night. But the most memorable band for me was Westbound Train, an act that Mr. Laskin failed to even mention in the article ("I kept reading")**. The 'Train played a soulful style of ska and reggae, something I heard for the very first time that night, not unlike the music of The Skatalites.
Authentic ska music is upbeat, but it still comes from the Caribbean and still has an element of funk behind it. When ska music settled in the United States, like everything else in America, it became faster, harder, and taken to excess by underage prescription drug offenders. It became soulless. Keep this in mind if you happen to be playing in a "ska" band, because it happens to the best of us.
Here is a YouTube video of Vin Gordon*** with The Skatalites, albeit just out of the frame.
Recommended Reading: More Information Than You Require by John Hodgman. Published by Riverhead Books.
SPECIAL THANKS to Nick Richards for the clarification***