Chris Poland has made a living out of playing party music. The now-California-based musician led ska band Warsaw Poland Bros. for years, and more recently the California Celts and Kalifornia Krauts. They are all bands that manage to evoke a good-time vibe, provide an atmosphere of general revelry, pack a dancefloor and perhaps drain a venue of its beer supply.
But it all started with Warsaw Poland Bros., the ska band started by Chris and his brother Aaron 25 years ago in Northern Arizona. They quickly started playing shows around Flagstaff, and soon after made friends and fans in towns around the Southwest, including Durango.
Warsaw Poland Bros. will perform tonight (Thursday) at the Animas City Theatre, with local ska band Busters Ghost, and DJ I-Gene, celebrating 25 years of making and playing ska music.
There was a time when they were in Durango on a quarterly basis. They’d play old venues like the Summit, or the San Juan Room, or The Iron Horse, or there would be impromptu shows in the tasting room at the old Ska Brewery when it was located on Turner Drive in Bodo Park. They were practically locals, becoming part of Ska Brewing’s “League of Justice.” In the brewery’s early days it was friends and musicians that helped build the business. The League of Justice was a list of people that would help with beer production, or ska bands that would come through town, acknowledged in the beer’s packaging.
“We were very lucky, we were one of the first bands to be mentioned on the bottom of their six-packs,” said Chris Poland in a recent interview. “When you looked on the bottom on the cardboard it thanked bands, and we were one of several bands listed there. They were very generous.”
They were road-dogs, playing up to 300 dates a year and going from coast to coast and sometimes Hawaii, which eventually took its toll. Chris relocated to California and took up residency playing music with The California Celts, a steady gig of shows closer to home without the rigors of non-stop touring. But as their 25th Anniversary approaches, there was a calling to bring in some past members and book a tour, with more short tours to come.
“Ska is coming back, and we’ll hit while the iron is hot,” said Chris. “My brother Aaron said ‘Chris, we have more fans in Colorado than anywhere else.’ We’d spend three to five weeks a year, several times a year in Colorado. Winter and summer, we’d live there on tour. This 25-year anniversary only happens once. I didn’t know how much interest there would be, but I managed to book a week-long tour in 40 minutes. There was demand there.”
For this tour, Warsaw will have both Poland brothers, and original members Chris Woodward and Cameron Tuttle. Members of the California Celts will round out the band.
“Recently at practice was the first day that it sounded like Warsaw,” Chris said. “It did bring me back to the old days, and hearing why that music was special to us and others back then, it wasn’t just a passing trend. I got that feeling off the song ‘Rude Girl,’ which my brother wrote. We’re starting to sound like the old days, so we’re just about there.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected]