Finding Long Beach’s Ska Paradise

Apr. 17, 2018 / By

Story By Melody Congote. Photo via Miles Gehm.

Though it wasn’t the birthplace of Ska, Long Beach might as well be called the home of the transnational movement of sound since so many Ska bands and musicians have come straight from Long Beach.

Bands like War, No Doubt, Sublime, Reel Big Fish, Rx Bandits and Long Beach Dub Allstars are just some of the few Ska bands which have left an imprint in the city. They were the very few pioneers that have lead others to evolve it into sounds still heard today in legendary locales like Alex’s Bar or all ages venues like DiPiazza’s.

“Ska opened the doors for many bands out here in Long Beach,” said Berenice Arriaga, who’s the lead singer of local Ska band Trespass and a CSULB student. “It wasn’t until Sublime came along that Long Beach became the home and many other bands followed.”

Ska music, which was originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s, was a combination of Reggae, Rocksteady, Jazz and Rhythm and Blues all in one. Since Ska is all about uplifting and upbeat melodies, it played well with Long Beach, the radical, laid back, surfing city with its West Coast sunshine.

Right here in Long Beach, the band Sublime had reinvented the sound for California, with a punk attitude and a reggae groove, which gave upcoming Ska bands a beat to surf and skate all over the city.

The California love with Sublime’s Long Beach sun painted a city which many outsiders were left California Dreaming of.

Sublime’s most famous lyric says it all: “Love is what I got/it’s within my reach/and the Sublime style’s still straight from Long Beach.”

The SoCal party, surfer, stoner band, which fused punk, ska, dub, reggae and hip-hop, sang about drugs, parental problems and police brutality (themes still resounding in contemporary Ska). They were the bad boys of their time just like the Rolling Stones were next to the Beatles. When grunge was much in style at the time, Sublime was the don’t worry, be happy and let’s get high and have a good time kind of band.

Sublime became one of the most influential and famous bands that came from the city of Long Beach. They made it so that the city would become known for another cultural sound on top of its G-Funk roots which had already been grounded by local rappers Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg.

Adrian Young, the drummer from No Doubt, was born in Long Beach. The band contributed much to the Ska movement during the time that Sublime was around. It’s no surprise that the two bands were close with one another and made music together.

Like Sublime, No Doubt took Ska to different sub-genres, from 1980s New Wave to West Coast Punk.

Emilio Gonzalez, a current musician in the Ska scene and music major at CSULB, said when he was growing up, he believed that Ska’s “paradise” was the city of Long Beach.

“All the Ska bands that have come out of Long Beach have made Long Beach their home and have made Long Beach known for it,” said Gonzalez. “…but no other band, like Sublime has made a city known for its genre like they have.”

To hear the latest Ska up-and-comers across Long Beach, check out Boogie Tone, Skandalous, The Groove, Trespass and Fishsticks.

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CSULB Enterprise Reporters

VoiceWaves partners with the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) each semester to mentor students' community reporting. The Journalism 495 Enterprise Reporting in Diverse Communities course challenges students to build on their journalism skills covering various neighborhoods throughout Long Beach, including North Long Beach, Central Long Beach, Downtown, and the Westside.