First-Ever Denver Ska Fest Will Be June 15 at Sculpture Park | Westword

Denver Will Go Beat Crazy Over First-Ever Ska Fest This Summer

This all-ages celebration of the music will feature Goldfinger and Less Than Jake, The Planet Smashers, Kill Lincoln, Joystick, Five Iron Frenzy, Sorry Sweetheart, and The Potato Pirates.
Sculpture Park
Sculpture Park AEG Presents Rocky Mountains
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Content sponsored by AEG Presents Rocky Mountains.

Get out your dancing shoes for AEG Presents’ first-ever Denver Ska Fest, taking place on Saturday, June 15, in Sculpture Park off Speer Boulevard at the Denver Performing Arts Complex!

After all, there is no more joyous style of music in the rock-and-roll era than ska, the genre that supercharged the off-beat rhythmic accents of reggae with the energy and spirit of punk.

Denver Ska Fest — an all-ages celebration of the music — will feature headliners Los Angeles-based Goldfinger and Less Than Jake, which started in Gainesville, Florida. Also on the bill will be The Planet Smashers from Montreal, Kill Lincoln of Washington, D.C., and Joystick! From New Orleans, as well as a trio of Denver ska bands: Five Iron Frenzy, Sorry Sweetheart, and The Potato Pirates.
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Denver Ska Fest Lineup
AEG Presents Rocky Mountains
Ska has a long history in rock. The sounds of R&B and jazz in the late 1950s led to ska in the 1960s, when the beat was slowed down. It was a precursor to reggae music in Jamaica, which was exemplified by artists like Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff. By the late 1970s, an upbeat style of ska called “two-tone” laid the foundations for today’s ska-punk hybrid, delivered by groups like The Specials, The Selecter, English Beat and Madness.

Many ska bands from decades back featured punchy horn sections that added an irresistible emphasis, making it impossible for fans to stay still. And when the electricity of punk rock was added to the mix, audiences often naturally swirled into mosh-pit dancing, with musicians stage-diving and being carried aloft by fans, as in the early days of hardcore punk.

Denver Ska Fest’s lineup represents a diverse range of veteran ska stars as well as local faves. Goldfinger was formed in 1994 and has evolved into more of a punk style over the years. Less Than Jake, which has kept the sound of horns as part of its rhythm section since 1992, will release a new full-length album this fall.

Kill Lincoln and Joystick! also feature horns. And while Joystick!’s music is flavored by the R&B of NOLA in the late 1950s, its rhythmic emphasis harks back to the roots of reggae in Jamaica. The Planet Smashers play punk with pop hooks and subtler reggae/ska rhythmic underpinnings.

Of the Denver ska groups, Five Iron Frenzy qualifies as a veteran of the local scene, having played here since 1995. Although the group disbanded in 2003, it re-formed in 2011 with a triumphant, fan-funded tenth album, Engine of a Million Plots. The Potato Pirates are dedicated punk rockers, and Sorry Sweetheart varies its sound from soft to hard, writing songs that celebrate the local scene, such as “Keep Lodo Off South Broadway.”

Sculpture Park is the perfect place to romp to ska music on a summer day, with artist Jonathan Borofsky’s sixty-foot-tall sculptures, “The Dancers,” towering over partiers on the lawn on the west side of the Denver Performing Arts Complex. When you arrive, you’ll find plenty of parking and great dining options around the complex. The music kicks off at 2 p.m., and you can enjoy the sunset over the Front Range as you indulge in the tunes.

Get ready to join the fun and ska-daddle over to the inaugural Denver Ska Fest!

Tickets are available now.

This story has been updated to clarify the origins of ska.
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