Joe Strummer has been dead for 16 years. In the years since the founding member and frontman of The Clash passed, society has created plenty of fodder to stand up against and sing about, with much of it produced after November 2016. The world needs someone to critique and sing about the state of the world, and Strummer was more than qualified for the job.
Along with Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, and Topper Headon, Strummer and The Clash questioned authority, educated listeners, and produced memorable tunes with melodies and lyrics are still a siren of relevance today.
Strummer loved a good festival and to knock back a pint or six with friends and fans, and surely would have given a nod approval to what is arguably the Durango musical event of the year: Ska Brewing’s 23rd Anniversary Party. The sold-out event is Saturday at the Bodo Park brewery.
This year, the event, which is as much a beer festival as a concert, will feature dozens of breweries, along with bands Big D and the Kids Table, The Doped-Up Dollies, and Clash cover band The Nuns of Brixton.
Big D and the Kids Table and The Doped-Up Dollies are two bands that go hand in hand. The former is a Boston-based ska band that leans hard into the world of punk and hardcore, and features The Doped-Up Dollies as backup singers. When the Dollies play a set without Big D – which will happen on Saturday – you’ll get ska and soul from a strong working class group of women. They’re known for beautiful harmonies reminiscent of The Andrews Sisters, if the sisters had been reared on punk rock and boogie-woogie jazz.
The Nuns of Brixton have been requested for a return to the Ska party after first playing the event in 2011. The Denver band, named for the Clash tune “Guns of Brixton,” will hit the stage in nun habits and deliver spot-on renditions of cuts from the deep and diverse Clash catalog. Formed in 2010 by a group of Denver musicians, all of whom had other musical projects in the works, the guys in The Nuns of Brixton came together thanks to one common factor: The Clash.
“We were thinking about what could we do to mix things up. And one of the things was what were some of the biggest influences we had in our lives, and we all came back to The Clash,” said Nuns singer Jim Yelenick, or ‘Jah StrummeNun. “We all came back to the political, the reggae, and how (with) all-in-one fusion you could bring different societies together. Black, white, yellow, brown, get together, listen to the same music, talk about the same music. In doing so, we brought our own traditions together.”
The Clash remains one of the few bands to have successfully crossed genres. They were loved and respected by punkers, metal-heads, reggae, rockabilly, and alternative country people, as well as those who just dug rock and roll.
The Clash have been described as “the only band that mattered,” a band that could be irreverent and intelligent, and could deliver reggae groove just as well as straight-ahead rock.
While the idea of a band playing in nun costumes is slightly humorous, The Nuns of Brixton deliver the message that The Clash’s influence stands as tall today as it did in 1977, with the music being just as important.
“It’s something that inspired us, something that brought me and my friends and musicians together, and (is) obviously still having a major influence on us,” said Yelenick. “And, the music itself is still so important, and has such a core message, that I think it needs to be out there. It needs to be heard.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected]