After Two Decades, LA's Latino Ska Scene Is Still DIY as Hell
Born in the early 90s, the local ska scene of inner-city LA has evolved from its origins in grassroots backyard gigs into a cultural youth movement still alive and skanking today.
All photos courtesy EvoekoreMedia.com
Los Globos, the two-story nightclub in northeast LA’s gentrified Silver Lake neighborhood, is packed with hundreds of sweaty Latino youths. Their faces are oily, pimply, and awkward—what you’d expect from your average horny teenager with no sexual outlet for release. It’s only 4pm on a Saturday in November, and already their shirts are drenched in sweat from hours of moshing and skanking, the rhythmic dance originating from the Jamaican-born ska genre, across both the upstairs and downstairs dance floors at an all-ages show with a stacked lineup slated to run for over eight hours.
Their look is all over the place, showcasing various cultural influences of the past and present. Dudes wear red flannels under ripped jean vests, reminiscent of the Seattle grunge era of the 90s. There’s also a younger teen rocking a classic, All-American 50s greaser look: a slickly coiffed and blindingly shiny pompadour, a wallet chain attached to his cuffed jeans, and a pair of heavy black biker boots. The ladies sport a classic rude girl ska style, with red bandanas hugging their updo buns and holding their jet-black bangs in place.
But mostly, the look is punk to the rotten core: gauged ears and torn fishnet stockings with thick creepers and filthy Chuck Taylors at the feet covering the floor. The most important items proudly worn on display, however, are the wide rainbow collection of band pins, buttons, patches, and T-shirts. And on them, you’ll find everyone, from punk royalty—Crass, The Misfits, The Adicts, Rancid, Dead Kennedys, Subhumans—to 2 Tone ska godfathers The Specials.
These artist associations are your identifiers, what sets you apart from the rest of the crowd and what indicates your musical allegiance. Are you a hardcore punk kid looking to thrash in the mosh pits? Or do you lean toward the rhythmically pleasing, brass-based melodies of ska? Luckily, the day’s lineup heavily features a sound that’s a loud, hammering amalgamation of the two genres.
Ska-punk. Skacore. Whatever you want to call it, it’s as self-explanatory as it sounds. The ska and punk worlds first came together via the 2 Tone movement of the late 70s in England, when bands like The Specials, The Selecter, The Beat, and Madness adopted a punk rock attitude to the traditional ska sound. It later birthed the skacore movement, highlighting a more hardcore punk appeal over a ska framework.