Why do Mexicans Love Ska?

Story By Gustavo Arellano | Dallas Observer
Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dear Mexican: Lately, I’ve noticed a few bands, como Voodoo Glow Skulls, have embraced ska music both at home and in Mexico. I was curious what the appeal is for Mexicans. Also, if you had to turn people to Mexican ska, what would be your top five recommendations? TOMMY MILAGROS

Dear Wab: The ska tendencies in Mexico go back to the early days of ska itself — Jamaican music has always had a vibrant home in Mexico. Like all popular Mexican music forms, ska is danceable, upbeat even in its darkest moments, customizable and a DJ’s dream. Mexican ska’s greatest contribution to the form is the mixing of punk attitude and political commentary a la 2 Tone ska. As for my top five: The late Tijuana No! is sorely missed, Maldita Vecindad still blasts their chilango stew and Los Angeles’ own Viernes 13 are chingones with horns. I’ll also give a shout-out to Inspector, although their ska is a bit too clean for my tastes. But the masters are Panteón Rococo .


Read the full article at Dallas Observer

Left Alone – Viernes 13 – Black Rose Phantoms – Gamblers Mark – at The Knitting Factory – Hollywood, CA

Story By Stephanie M | Music Scene Reporter | Big Wheel Magazine

Left Alone finally came out of hibernation this Saturday at The Knitting Factory in Hollywood, and hosted a CD Release Party for the debut of their new self-titled album. During the event, tattoo artist Jeff Page was tattooing the Left Alone logo in the Alternknit room for the mere price of 20 dollars. Also invited to the CD Release event was Kevin Seconds of 7 Seconds, who played an acoustic set in the Alternknit room. Along with Left Alone, Viernes 13, The Black Rose Phantoms, and Gamblers Mark all played as well.

The first band to commence the night were Los Angeles natives, Gamblers Mark. Gamblers Mark differentiated themselves from the rest of the line-up by maintaining purely a Rockabilly Rock-N-Roll sound. A few of their songs also maintained Ska influences, which was to easy to see why they were included in the line-up. During the band’s set, few people were present, but those who were present could be seen dancing and shaking around their bodies. Gamblers Mark may not have had a large crowd, but their stage presence was abundant in energy and fervor.


Second in the line-up were The Black Rose Phantoms, who at first glance based solely on appearance, seemed like your typical Psychobilly band. Upon playing, the sound of the band was so oddly unique, it blew you away. The band managed to incorporate the fast paced double pedal beats of Thrash Metal with Psychobilly, and it was the strangest but most interesting sound they developed. Upon closer inspection of the band, drummer Marc Death appeared to be a Metalhead himself! The band’s mesh of the Psychobilly styles of upright bass with the fast paced guitar influences of Metal was a fascinating collaboration to experience and listen to. The Black Rose Phantoms were certainly one of the most impressive performances of the night.


When Viernes 13 took the stage, The Knitting Factory was full of eager energy and people. When vocalist Juan Pulido introduced the band and first song, the entire floor became a giant dance floor full of kids skanking and dancing wildly in circles. Throughout the entire set, the floor was never void of Rude boys and Girls skanking the night away. The band’s sound is purely composed of Ska, with the majority of the lyrics sung in Spanish. Viernes 13 had the entire audience mesmerized with their music and their musical performance. The band’s set was cut short due to timing issues, but the band saved their most popular song for last and played “Johnny Pistolero” for the audience. When the band finished the song, audience members begged for an encore in Spanish by shouting “Otra! Otra!” Band members showed up briefly to bow in gratitude, and went on to leave the stage instead.


The curtains drew to a close around the stage before Left Alone went on, and it was a short wait before the curtains drew open to reveal the stage ready for the band. Left Alone went on and were greeted by loud cheers and applause on behalf of the crowd. The band played most of their Ska fused classics and provided skank worthy music for the audience. The band included a couple of songs from their newest release, including “Sad Story”, which vocalist Elvis Cortez made sure to state that the song was about their native city Wilmington. At one point during the set, the band paused to each receive a shot glass, and made a toast to the completion of their latest release, and each took a shot of Jack Daniels Whiskey. The audience whistled and applauded, and showed their support for the band’s latest success. The floor was full of people skanking the entire time, and the crowd appeared to constantly be enjoying themselves during Left Alone’s set. The band played for about an hour before finally retiring themselves. After the audience’s plead for an encore, the band came back to play “I Hate Emo” and the crowd started a mosh pit in the spirit of Punk Rock. The band left the stage right after, and finished off the exciting night at The Knitting Factory.


Left Alone’s CD Release Party was a successful and lively event that provided many memorable moments for the night. People of many different sorts of crowds came to take part in the event, and everyone was moved by the music played during the night. All of the bands brought different scenes to the venue, yet all joined together to appreciate and experience the live music of the night. Left Alone’s debut has been anticipated for a long time, and they have finally brought back their talent and musically stylings for all to enjoy. Left Alone’s self-titled release arrives on April 7, and if you missed the exciting CD Release Party, take a listen to the new release on your own, and experience Left Alone’s DIY artistic philosophies and they’ll make a fan out of you too.

-Stephanie M.-
Big Wheel music scene reporter

Read the original article at Big Wheel Magazine

More photos of the show can be seen HERE


Story By | O.C. Weekly
Thursday, August 8, 2002

Viernes 13 are the vanguards of a new Latino musical rebellion

They’re the cities that secession forgot: the burbs between and around the 91, 710, 605 and 60 freeways; not quite Los Angeles and definitely not Orange County. For the English- and Spanish-language media, these cities—Paramount, Lynwood and Cudahy to name the grimiest—are notable only because they birthed the narcocorrido movement. But in the shadows of this virtual Mexico lurks the youth rebellion of ska.

It’s not OC’s deliriously moronic version of it, though. These semi-assimilated nether regions are a Petri dish, breeding the brassy OC faves of the south into the punishing punk of LA to create something new and menacing: Latino ska. And the bands that cultivate this version of a lately ridiculed genre—homegrown guys and gals like Las 15 Letras, Left Alone and Rascuache—sometimes sing in English (but most of the time scream in Spanish) and always give the music a sinister spin, reflecting the tough day-to-day lives of the bands, instead of the fooling-around-during-band-camp inspiration of suburban nitwits.

“[OC skankers] don’t see the shit we see,” says Jay Pea, lead singer of Viernes 13. “You walk the streets of OC, and you walk our streets; it’s gonna be different. We’re not going to be singing about ‘My friend has a red car.’ We deal with real human emotions and actions.”

Out of all these bands, Viernes 13 is perhaps the best. Coming from Southgate—a city that “you only hear about whenever there’s a crime,” according to Jay Pea—and holding the bluest blue-collar jobs imaginable (could you ever imagine Save Ferris working in a warehouse or an oil refinery?), the sextet is an apposite amalgamation of the various highlights of Latino ska. They have horns aplenty, all right, but Melvin’s trombone and Güero’s trumpet are horns to bash to, not bounce.

Mario’s guitar has the proper ska-band scratchiness, but he comes armed with two-chord stomps and trippy psychobilly/surf riffs better suited for a brawl. Mikey’s drums sound as if he’s trying to hammer something evil to pieces. And lyrically, they rarely stray from their Viernes 13 name (which means Friday the 13th) with ominous, fatalistic songs such as “Bailando con la Muerte” (Dancing with Death) and “Últimas Palabras” (Last Words).

But most important in this maniacal mix is Jay Pea. A skinny, tattooed chingón, this Southgate native takes to the stage like a man ready to kick ass. He strangles every ounce of life out of the mic. His moves are subtle yet calculated, and he makes sure to get his points across in a growl that makes any lyrics intimidating.

So this ain’t your cute neighbor’s ska—because your cute neighbor probably didn’t share gigs with metal bands at a dank American Legion bar in Huntington Park like Viernes 13 did when they hit their stride around three years ago.

“We’d be with these hard-core death metal bands, so we started to get influenced by them,” Jay Pea recalls. “After a while, a lot of the metal fans, they’d say, ‘I hate ska, but Viernes 13 is different.’ That’s when we knew we were doing the right thing by being dark.”

Though they might be committed to the dark side, the guys never forget their roots—both ethnic and economic. Reflecting their lives the best is “Johnny Pistolero,” a ballad written with a nod toward the corridos that their less-assimilated brethren love as well as “all the crazy motherfuckers we know.” The song tells the story of Johnny Pistolero (Johnny Gunn), a valiente in the same tradition of other men immortalized in song such as Gabino Barrera and Lamberto Quintero. But this time, the guy’s a Stacy Adams-wearing, lowrider-driving homeboy bragging that he can take on anyone and daring everyone to try—even if it brings death.

Stupid posing? Or bitter reality? There’s a reason why Viernes 13 doesn’t concentrate too much on the political aspect that characterizes most Latin alternative acts in the Los Angeles basin.

“The people who talk about politics, none of them do shit,” Jay Pea says. “The world doesn’t revolve around politics—it’s about life and death. We’re not crybabies. We can deal with what’s given to us.”

Viernes 13 perform with Panteón Rococó and Calavera at JC Fandango, 1086 N. State College, Anaheim, (714) 758-1057; www.jcf.com. Thurs., Aug. 15, 8 p.m. $18-$20. 16+.

Read the full article at O.C. Weekly