Ska has an aesthetic that permeates everything it does: It’s the brewery that has character (literally), with its eloquently envisioned and executed identity/marketing/packaging approach, the two-decades-old black and white checkers accompanying the beloved comic book characters like True Blonde and Buster Nut Brown. It has style accentuated by its gorgeous Bodo brewery and tasting room, making everything from trivia night to benefit concerts seem unexpectedly fashionable. And they have personality, drenched with humor and fun subversiveness, seen with the inside jokes on their cans or on their press releases, full of jokes you imagine them sniggering and pointing at just before they go public. Simply, Ska manages to do things right and do them well.
Why would its yearly party be any different?
The 21st anniversary party last Saturday at Ska World Headquarters brought out greatness: Legendary ska bands, the best breweries around and some of Durango’s best party people and men and women about town.
And at the heart of it, one imagined, were the Ska brass showing everyone watching how you throw a party.
Ska always has a bit of that parents-are-out-of-town-and-the-kids-got-left-in-charge vibe, with co-founders, owners, brewers and cellar folk regularly passing through the tasting room, often wearing cargos. The party was no different, as they turned their facility into a legitimate beer festival and de facto ska jamboree. The feeling of exclusivity was palpable, great for buzz before and after the party.)
The Ska crew invited its favorite bands and its favorite people – from the beer world and from the community. And, as the characters on the packaging seemingly have lives of their own, so did the physical brewery on this day, the tanks and tubes, bubbles and boilers getting to invite 30-someodd of its brewery friends, beer in tow, ready for sampling.
It all paid off. There were many familiar faces and even for those you didn’t know, you seemed to have something in common – shared experience or maybe just the beer or music (though Fishbone headlined and had a huge following at the party, as did The Toasters, it was the Nuns of Brixton who stole the show with a frontnun who refused to let you look away from his stage command, and then post-show as he worked the audience with further shenanigans and charisma, still in costume).
The party also took on a sentimental feel, a longing for and celebration of good times past, with ’90s ska and swing fashion getting another run in the sun: black and white checkers everywhere – shoes, hats, socks, dresses, buttons; U.K. punk garb; fedoras, etc. I-knew-you-when T-shirts were on street-cred display, most notably when Toasters singer Buck Hingley spotted the band’s first-ever-designed T-shirt in the crowd, bringing it and its owner onstage for full display. Or there was one guy who approached another, saying, “Do you mind if I get a picture with you?” and, pointing at the other guy’s shirt, said, “That used to be my band,” 10 years ago. That’s how great the party was: One where a member of your favorite band wants a picture with YOU.
This being my first Ska anniversary party, I didn’t know what to expect going in or who exactly the party was for. I know now it was for everyone: The invited breweries and bands, the friends of Ska and the lucky handful from the community who found a way in. It was also certainly for the Ska crew itself, showing that after 21 years, they’re still doing this crazy brewing thing, that they still got it, that they can still party and, all the while, can show everyone else how it’s done.