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Where Are They Now: Third Wave Ska

Posted by Echowood on May 14, 2007.


Sandwiched in between the dying Seattle grunge scene and a just born boy band/pop music scene, Third Wave Ska had it's time in the sun. For a few short years in the late 90's, Ska had hit the mainstream and all seemed right in the world.

The first (and last) time I was ever punched in the face was in the mosh pit at a Mighty Mighty Bosstones show in Norwalk, CT in 1995. It was my fault. A skinny 16 year-old kid weighing in at an emaciated 120lbs has no business mixing it up with guys hopped up on whatever was being served in the bathroom. I quickly learned that the sidelines was the best place to witness the violently-gyrating spectacle of Bosstones fans. Half of us were happy that ska was finally getting radio airplay, and the other half assumed the bands had sold out. We all agreed that ska was here to stay.

We were wrong.

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones: To me, they represented the genre better than any other ska band of the movement. They were the first "third wave ska" band I'd listened to, and within a few years had found mainstream success. With the release of "Let's Face It" ska had found it's way to radio, and the single "The Impression That I Get" was on constant rotation.

The Bosstones went on indefinite hiatus in December of 2003. Band members found their way into other bands, some with limited success. Front-man Dicky Barrett is the announcer for Jimmy Kimmel Live and had a brief stint as a morning radio host in Los Angeles.

No Doubt: "Dude, this band opened for 311 tonight and the lead singer was this smoking-hot chick," my brother had witnessed the beauty that was and is Gwen Stefani and he was salivating.

I can't think of one friend who didn't own "Tragic Kingdom." Gwen was front and center on the album cover, strategic marketing by the cover's designer, and holding a rotten orange.

Today, No Doubt has morphed into a pop-rock band with their last release of "Rock Steady". Unless you've been in a coma for the last few years, you probably know that Stefani did the solo thing for a bit and taught the world to spell "bananas." A follow-up to "Rock Steady" is planned once Stefani's current tour finishes.

Reel Big Fish: How do you get famous? You write a song about it. Such was the case with Fish's "Sell Out" which parodied the payola scandals and dirty deeds involved in the recording industry.

Like a slew of other bands from the late 90's, they were dropped by their label. Ever resilient, they pushed forward and released their next few albums independently. A tour is planned for this summer.

Letters to Cleo: The Taming of the Shrew was the influence for 10 Things I Hate About You starring Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger. The soundtrack was heavily ska influenced, capped off by Letters to Cleo's performance atop a school in the Pacific Northwest.

Today, the band has gone their separate ways, each taking the solo project route. And if you happened upon the Josie and the Pussycats movie, that was lead singer Kay Hanley supplying the singing for Rachel Leigh Cook.

Save Ferris: Step 1, get a funny and clever name. Step 2, create a cover of a classic song. (Dexy's Midnight Runners' "Come on Eileen") Step 3, watch as fame ensues. Step 4, break up.

If this were a "Behind the Music," the band would get back together in the third act and everyone would put their differences behind them. Obviously, Save Ferris hasn't watched too many "Behind the Musics." Lead singer Monique Powell started her own band and kept the Save Ferris name. Cue the lawsuits. Some members of the band formed a new band with the Enya-esque name of Starpool.

Spring Heeled Jack, USA: If you were living in Connecticut and listening to ska, then you knew Spring Heeled Jack were leading the way. They were forced to append "USA" onto their name when a British outfit with a similar name threatened lawsuit. While they never had the mainstream success of enjoyed by their contemporaries, their fun attitude and good times in some ways epitomized the Third Wave Ska movement.

Once they were dropped from their label, members of the band were absorbed into other bands. (Most notably, Chris Rhodes' taking over trombone for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.) All hopes of a reunion were dashed when drummer Dave Karcich died of a cerebral aneurysm.

Mephiskapheles: I was a radio DJ for a stint down in Miami, playing mostly ska and punk. I managed to turn a small section of South Florida onto ska, and Mephiskapheles' "Bumble Bee Tuna" ended up being the most-requested song of my tenure.

I couldn't find too much information on them. I found out they broke up, but don't know when or what they're up to now.

I'm sure I've left hundreds of bands off this list. Please feel free to add to the list in the comment section below.

If you enjoyed this story, read more like it in our Where are they now? section.

Reader Comments

No mention of Fishbone huh?

Posted by DJ Maniak.

Fishbone rocks! There was also Hepcat, and Dance Hall Crashers, and The Aquabats...

Posted by Suzanne.

Hard to imagine my first 2 records were Bob Marley's Exodus and The Specials' self-titled debut. Will everyone remember the first time listening to A Message to You Rudy?

Posted by juls.

A computer-savvy bud burned a CD for me about 10 years ago (before I knew such a thing was even possible) including "Bumble Bee Tuna". All my other friends thought I was nuts for playing that song. The disc, like the friends, has vanished. I've been searching for it for years but I never knew how to spell the band's name!

Posted by John.

Ska (pron. IPA: [skæː]) is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s, and was a precursor to rocksteady and reggae.[1]


Posted by Clutch.

Voodoo Glow Skulls -rockin 3rd wave since 92.
Catch 22 and later Streetlight Manifesto
The Aquabats
Less than jake
The Toasters
The Slackers

I really thought of Operation Ivy as Proto-ska.

Posted by Rich.

The Aquabats! - Anyone else realize that Baron Von Tito is actually Travis Barker, now of Blink 182 fame?

Also the Toasters, Pietasters, Skalicious (pretty unknown DC ska) MU330, Mustard Plug, Distorted Penguins, The Skunks.... i am sure there are others...oh The Shenanigans!

Posted by Matt.

The Aquabats! - Anyone else realize that Baron Von Tito is actually Travis Barker, now of Blink 182 fame?

Also the Toasters, Pietasters, Skalicious (pretty unknown DC ska) MU330, Mustard Plug, Distorted Penguins, The Skunks.... i am sure there are others...oh The Shenanigans!

Posted by Matt.

ha! Skalicious....good times at the Old Firehouse...Jorge from the Decepticonz is playing bass in the Pietasters right now, and also has a new band called the Five Maseratis. Check 'em out!

Posted by Oscar.

The popularity of this topic implies that perhaps a "Part 2" should be in order. I would have included more bands on the list, but I ran out of time. And yes, not including Fishbone and Less Than Jake on the first list is blasphemy, but I promise to make up for it.

Posted by Echowood.

Oh wow, the Firehouse, memories. Black Cat too! I moved out to Arizona and lost touch with all my beloved DC SKA.

I went to school with some of those Decepticonz boys. I loved them then and I still have those CDs in rotation.

Posted by Jessi.