Colorado has long had a loving relationship with reggae music. By extension, that has led to a number of quality ska bands in the punk-rock scene. With the Wailers coming to Denver's Gothic Theatre on Friday, January 19, we thought it was high time to honor some of the region's best ska and reggae acts. Here, in no particular order, are ten of the best reggae and ska bands in the region right now.
“Beer-soaked, reggae-soul, country-blues” is how the Breachers describe themselves on Facebook, and that patchwork combination of genres does pretty much hit the nail on the head. One listen to the “Walking to the Train” single is enough to reveal a rootsy, emotional and raw take on reggae that forgoes Jamaican imagery – none of these guys are Caribbean — in favor of an authentic blue-collar vibe. It all just works.
Yeah, this band is fan-fucking-tastic — a combination of many of the things that make Denver great. The seven-piece combines traditional Latin music with contemporary ska, and the results are incendiary. The members originate from Mexico, El Salvador and the USA, and the cross-pollination of cultures and genres is just a thrill.
For nearly fifteen years, since the breakup of such local luminaries as the Disasterbators and Dateless Wonder, the Dendrites have proudly flown the flag for reggae and ska in this city, with eleven musicians all keen on using their chops to create the wildest party everywhere they go. They vary between traditional and genre-bending, but two full-length albums into a strong career, they’re still one of the best that we have.
Five Iron Frenzy
This ska band formed in 1995 and split in 2003, but its fans weren’t going to just lie down and accept that, and eight years later, in 2011, a full reunion was announced. Ska-punk is the order of the day here, and tours with the likes of Reel Big Fish were entirely appropriate. In Reese Roper, the band has one of the best frontmen in the city, but it's the sum of the band's many parts that is most impressive.
Younger Than Neil
These guys call themselves “post skacore,” and we don’t even know if that’s a genuine genre name — but if it isn’t, it should be. In reality, what we have here is another lively, bouncy ska-punk band, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Hard, fast riffs are complemented by a booming brass section, and you can practically smell the sweat from the dancing crowd before ever seeing the band live.
The Bunny Gang
Citing the Clash, Bob Marley and the Cure among its influences, the Bunny Gang offers a very ’80s, leather-clad take on ska. The lyrics are sharp, too, leading one fan to describe the act as modern “revolution music.” And that’s exactly what the genre needs to be right now.
All Waffle Trick
Walking the line between pop-punk and ska, All Waffle Trick would have you believe that they’re dumb kids, only interested in drinking, eating and rocking out. And then there’s that absolutely, utterly ludicrous name, and the fact that the band proudly has no political agenda. But there’s something about the razor-sharp tunes and, whisper it, technical proficiency that suggests that, in fact, what we have here is a group of smart cookies.
Less ska and more reggae rock, Tatanka was formed by college friends at the start of this decade and was soon named “Unsigned Band of the Month” in High Times magazine, along with being nominated in the “Best Reggae/Jam Band” category in these very pages. “Tatanka encapsulates the heavy roots rumble of the Caribbean while maintaining the pop sensibilities of the dance-oriented electronic sounds from the Britannica-American reggae scenes,” the band says. Fair enough.
Blending reggae with blues rock, Red Sage describes itself as being “inspired by true life events and current events in the world as well as a will to grow and spread some love throughout the darkest corners of the world. The band is known to fuse some different styles into traditional reggae for an experience that will get you moving.” God knows the world is a dark place and needs some love right now, so get to work, Red Sage. Do your thing.
Apex Vibe is a roots-reggae outfit that has shared a stage with the likes of Fishbone, Shaggy, Flobots, Tribal Seeds, Passafire, UB40 and the Wailers. “They are constantly reaching for a new place in time where dub reggae hooks up with the foundation of rock n roll and is baked at a Mile High,” the act writes. “Known for their electric live performances, Apex Vibe creates a sound that will energize your body and have you dancing and singing to every song.” And that’s exactly what they do.