By Michelle Ska

About Michelle Ska

^^^This is actually me.  21DeadMonkeys' artist, Boston (the girl, not the city) drew me as a character in one of her stories.  The actual comic came from here.  The line I say in the comic is typical of me. You can check out the rest of her Bosstones-inspired comics at 21DeadMonkeys. You'll see tons of your favorite ska bands show up in them too! Thank you, Boston!

I'm a lover of all things ska for 20 years and I have been to over 700 ska shows, 113 of them have been The Pietasters.  How do I know it's that many?  I have it meticulously detailed on My Ska Show History excel spreadsheet I've kept since Day 1 (Day 1 was my first Bosstones show!).  Thank you OCD!  I listen to it on heavy-rotation and never once getting sick of it, and live in NYC because of the ska scene.  I currently have 5 ska tattoos (The Specials, The English Beat, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish and The Pietasters).  You will often find me at a show standing front-row-center, usually with my wingtips on my feet and camera in hand since I am an semi-skilled concert photographer.
There has even been a ska song written about me, which I'm not about to tell you which one since it's not that pleasant (let me rephrase that: not pleasant AT ALL). 
If you see me at a show, come up and say "hello."  I won't bite...too hard.

Rudegirl Ska Tours:
As a groupie, I live for going to shows and following bands.  Here are my greatest achievements thus far:

RUDEGIRL TOUR #1: Pietasters in summer of 1997.  8 shows in 14 days.

RUDEGIRL TOUR #2: Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake, and Streetlight Manifesto SHOUT IT LOUD tour in Summer of 2007.  8 shows in 30 days from NYC to L.A.

RUDEGIRL TOUR #3: Mighty Mighty Bosstones in August 2010. 8 shows in 10 days. Covering from DC to Buffalo to Milwaukee.

RUDEGIRL TOUR #4: MIXED BANDS in July 2011 - Sublime with Rome, Less Than Jake, Aggrolites, Big D, Toots and the Maytals, The Scofflaws, The Bluebeats, Pietasters, Reel Big Fish, Streetlight Manifesto, and New Riot.  12 shows in 15 days. Achieved my first award of making it to 3 shows in one day: Warped Tour, then The Scofflaws, and then The Bluebeats in Long Island/Brooklyn.

RUDEGIRL TOUR #5: In February 2012. 7 shows of Less Than Jake's 20th Anniv tour, 1 show of Toasters and 1 show of the Skatalites all in 10 days. Covering the area from Boston to Philly to Cleveland.

RUDEGIRL TOUR #6: Mixed bands, but mostly RBF in June of 2012. 10 shows in 15 days.  

RUDEGIRL TOUR #7: The Specials and Warped Tour in mid-July 2013.  11 shows in 10 days. Achieved my second award for making it to 3 shows in one day: Warped Tour, then The Specials, and then Version CIty in Boston.

Other Thingies:
Besides ska (yes, there are things besides ska in my life, though I hate to admit it), I love the ocean and SCUBA diving, writing with a shitload of grammatical errors as you can tell, riding my motorcycle named Charlie as in Drew Barrymore's character in Firestarter (2012 Honda Shadow 750cc orange with red flames  and license plate NYCSKA), enjoying a glass or 5 of German Riesling, taking my anger out on volleyball, reading disturbing non-fiction to satisfy my morbid obsession, and abusing the use of ellipses (these thingies "...").  And I love my job: I'm a special ed teacher.

Oh, and I like to talk a lot, don't say I didn't warn you.

You can potentially stalk me:
  • At nearly every ska show in NYC and most shows on the east coast.
  • Via email at
  • Watch My Channel chock full of ska videos on YouTube.
  • ...and on The Mighty Mighty Bosstones discussion forum (the fans known as "The 737") posting under the name RUDEsmile.

Is it Ska the 4th Wave???
Back on February 22, 2013 I made a statement saying Ska the 4th Wave is here. It got an AMAZING amount of feedback, nearly all being being ska musicians, who took part in the conversation.  Here it is in its entirety:

I truly believe it's ska, the 4th wave. Notice that every 15 years, the next wave happened: 1965 for Jamaican ska, 1980 for 2Tone, and 1995 for the Third Wave...which brings us to 2010 as the 4th wave. Thanks to Jesse Gosselin for the theory and GA Steiner for believing it too.

Chris Murray (ska musician in King Apparatus/Venice Shoreline Chris) other than a 15 year pattern, do you see any current indications? um, this is 2013

Chris Malone (trombone in Bigger Thomas and Pandemics) I believe we're due, but I'm not entirely certain it's here yet. Here's hoping!

GA Steiner There is a big ska/reggae/hiphop/dancehall scene going on in the UK right now

Michelle Ska  I felt the indications were how many reunions of 90s bands happened.

Daniel Byrne It certainly is in the air again.

Jayson Nugent (guitarist from The Slackers/Agent 99) "Waves" come not with time but with innovation of the style. What innovation(s) marks the difference between 3rd and 4th Wave?

Sammy Kay (singer/guitarist of Sammy Kay and the Fast Four) i dont play that card ofton, but i am for once. there is nothing truly new and innovating happening in US Ska and Reggae. theres good things, but like every good thing, it comes in bubbles. look at brooklyn now, compared to 3 years ago, the shows half half as many people, the parties are less and less.


Inspecter 7 - 2007

Bosstones - 2007

Bim Skala Bim - 2009

The Specials - 2010

Westbound Train - 2011

Mephiskapheles - 2012

5 Iron Frenzy - 2012

Spring Heeled Jack - 2012

Edna's Goldfish - 2012

Steady Earnest - 2012

Skavoovie and the Epitones - rumored

Michelle Ska I don't think style has to be the indicator of the next wave. I felt it was popularity, but I do see your point Jay and Sammy.

Jayson Nugent I see reunions as a step backwards, not a step forward. Beating a dead horse. Play something new!

Amanda Hornick (ska DJ/blogger of A Perfect Mess) ...who defines "new" and "innovating"?

Tiffany Geard (wife of Marcus Geard of the Slackers) whenever nytimes picks this 'wave'' up, there is a surge.. 1992, 95, 2001, 2008.. 4th wave is already here. here are 2 artciles. 95 and 2011...

Sammy Kay if the specials gave a shit about the "scene" and the :4th wave" they would have had LOCAL openers on the shows, 5 iron frenzy made HOW MUCH money to make a record?, the bosstones minium guarentee to play is HOW much?

Tiffany Geard but its not just the fact that the specials gave a shit or not.. its the fact that media or any sort of social entity other than us dorks have picked up on it.. causing a "wave".. waves dont give a shit about our thoughts.. they just happen.. just like the standard symbolic "wave" at baseball games.. it happens whether or not if you stand up and participate.

Jayson Nugent Amanda, ...the listener. The only innovation I really hear is possibly the electronic angle (Bomb The Music Industry, Sonic Boom Six, etc) or the Brit-Pop/Rub-A-Dub mix (The Skints, Dirty Revolution), Is a "revival" a "wave"? I don't think so.

Sammy Kay and as a struggling musician about to be 10,000 dollars in debt because i do what i do becasue i love it, i can tell you there isnt a wave.

Amanda Hornick ...being a struggling musician doesn't make you any more or less qualified than your audience at determining where the scene will go. You make the music, but we have to like it and share it. It's a collective between us all. If all the pieces are not there, nothing happens.

Sammy Kay im saying the scene isnt going anywhere, if anything, its gone down in the last 3 years.

Michelle Ska I did say that 2010 was the avg peak, so if you're saying it's gone down in the past 3 yrs, my math works out well.

Jayson Nugent It's really a semantic argument... Does a "wave" simply mean a resurgence in popularity or something more?

Chris Murray hmm. as much as i would love to see a growth in popularity for ska, and also some awesome innovation, articles on the specials and fishbone seem unconvincing as evidence of a 4th wave to me. that said, though i can't put my finger on it, something does seem to be in the air. while i see jay's point about reunions, i also see how a great band like the specials coming around has the potential to inspire young people who never got the chance to see them in previous eras. in LA, i was amazed how many people told me that the hepcat show last weekend would be the first time they'd seen them play live, and they sure can be an inspiring band. out here, the delirians are stepping up, and local promoters are bringing veteran jamaican artists to town pretty regularly these days. exposure to great quality ska is the only thing that will inspire a new generation to come forward with their own take on the music, at least that's how it seems to me.

Tiffany Geard i guess defining wave would have been a nice forethought before this post .

Michelle Ska Sammy, money has nothing to do with it. No one goes into ska for the money. Fans and musicians both know that.

Tiffany Geard those articles were showing the point of past wave points, not necessarily the 4th wave mark

Nick Karp (ska show photographer) I can't think of anyone for a 4th wave. To add on to a reunion list Daly's Gone Wrong just reunited. Ska-Core, but they can be considered... I guess.

There are a ton of talent in the local ska scenes, but nothing is innovative.

Sammy Kay thats waht i said, im about to drop a shit ton of money on a van, that ill never make back, because i LOVE doing what i do

Amanda Hornick ...I think the innovative seeds are there in local talent. Seeing that there is something to work towards beyond your local venue telling you they are not interested might be what they need to grow.

Jayson Nugent What Chris said! ...And there are exceptions to my reunions are "Beating a dead horse" statement. Notably, The Specials.

Michelle Ska  But Sammy, you implied that the Bosstones did it for the money.

Amanda Hornick ...maybe the wave has not hit yet. And all our points about why it's happening are just the swell before the wave. Maybe it IS about something NEW to a familiar sound, and it's in someone's basement right now and we just have not heard it.

Joe Ross (part time guitarist of The Pietasters) All a wave is is when a ska-influenced band breaks through and hits it big on the charts and influences culture in regards to fashion. It can't be a band that's already broken through, though.

Jayson Nugent The problem with any genre is that people want to hear what they already like. So there is always the urge for new bands to imitate the more popular bands on the scene. As with science, technology, philosophy, etc innovation in art is usually scorned at first.

Michelle Ska Influences fashion!?!?! I know you look good and all when you're playing Joe, but not sure how that would contribute to a wave.

Chris Malone take it as one dude's opinion, but I'm not sure I agree with the "Wave theory" being a product of innovation alone... I mean, people will continue to push the bounds of what they can do with instruments (and in the last 30-35 years, computers, synthesizers, and something in between the two), as technology allows, but for all the technical sophistication/prowess we have gained, that alone doesn't give you a great song/songs. I do think that, given the right circumstances, a wave can be generated by refining a sound as opposed to changing it (look at the resurgence of rocksteady/skinhead reggae in the last 10 years after by and large it took a back seat the punkier stuff in the 90s).

And for all of people's innovations, many artists prefer to forge their own paths, coin their own "genres", or defy genre labels and do their own thing. The issue is that, popularity is a nostalgic beast. It feeds on old ideas/formulas repackaged with new bells and whistles attached. Things that dont fit into that recognizable mold often times never gain enough traction to sustain themselves for an extended period of time, let alone enough to be called a wave.

Joe Ross *haha*...You know what I mean...two-toned colored items, Fred Perrys, Doc Martins, suits, etc. Kids like to identify with like-minded groups. Clothing choices are one of the easiest ways of making that identification.

Jayson Nugent I think the innovation must attain some success to be considered a "wave" i.e. Blue Beat, Two Tone, 3rd Wave. I don't see the current resurgence making a dent in the charts, unless you include the many pop tunes with closet ska/reggae influences.

Chris Murray a cool discussion! speaking only for myself, what really matters and gets me excited about music is quality - great songs, great recordings, great live performances. originality and freshness are key, and perhaps the only way to be fresh and original is have a good grasp of what has come before, and to take what has happened before as a starting point to move forward from down the path of hard work to finding one's own voice.

Jayson Nugent preach

Amanda Hornick ...I think it also has to do with bands making it into pop culture. The Aggrolites were on Yo Gabba Gabba. That show is INSANELY popular with the young folk (I a mom to a youngin', I was subjected to it the moment it started). Same with The Aquabats. They have a kids show. I think in order for it to be a wave, it does have to break Joe said above...but it also needs to be a part of the popular buzz. Fact is, the youth own the buzz right now. We are already laying the groundwork on the young. Whether or not something is "innovative" is really up to the listener. But whether or not something is "popular" can't be denied.

Chris Murray well said amanda

Bob Timm  (Musician in the ska band The Hard Times)  Jumping in here late, but in parsing out whether a "wave" happens by way of popularity or innovation, consider that you can't really have one without the other. If new bands come along loving the old stuff and play nothing but the old stuff, you get a revival. But it will never come on the radar, never get new popularity, and never earn a new genre/wave without some new spins on the old sound. The Third Wave brought out a lot of excellent vintage sounds, but it would have never made noise without those damn ska-punkers hanging around. Likewise, you can rattle off as many current rocksteady bands as you like, but it's still not anything new until people start attracting attention with a new spin on the old sound. I think the Aggrolites deserve a lot of credit for giving the skinhead reggae sound a new personality, and inspired a lot of the "dirty reggae" replicants you hear today. 

Reunions are just a by-product. These will always cycle through, are certainly welcome when successful, but more an effect than a cause.

Marc Wasserman (bassist of Bigger Thomas) I'll quickly weigh in and say I agree with Jayson that a wave has to attain some degree of success in the mainstream for it to be a wave (if that makes any sense). Unless a current ska band can attain some degree of success outside the insular scene we all love and care about then I would say there hasnt been a wave since the mid-90's and in some ways that was just the delayed impact of 2-Tone on bands like No Doubt and MMB who have always loved Madness and The Specials and The Beat.

Chris Murray some good points. what tiffany said about defining a wave, and what bob said about having a new spin on an old sound to hit the radar - there sure was a 3rd wave happening and healthy, albeit underground, in the US before it hit any radar, and i think if there hadn't been, record companies would never have stepped in the way they did in the '90s. jamaican ska was fully mainstream music in the context of its time and place, as was two tone, but i sure remember all the haters when a small group of bands from the 3rd wave broke into the mainstream, like there was something wrong with a band becoming successful. to my memory, the song that broke the 3rd wave was time bomb, though not exactly innovative, definitely a new spin on the two tone sound.

Amanda Hornick ...I think that is still the mindset for a lot of folks, though I don't understand it. You get into this music for the love of it, and I would call it a heck of a nifty thing when that love starts paying you back in your wallet. But there will always be people who hate on you for being one of the folks fortunate enough to find that route. It's in fans, and fellow musicians. The "sell-out" mentality. "Now I can't like that band because they make a lot of money doing this awesome thing I love."

Brendog Tween  (guitarist from Mephiskapheles) From my bleacher seat, I think ska is as popular now as it has ever been, in terms of fans as well as the number of new bands. Of course I think a wave is something that gets applied in hindsight, though maybe not. WTFK?

Tedford Juachon (trombonist of the old band The Studebakers) Just a quick thing on Joe's comment about influencing fashion: During the late '90s Old Navy sold skinhead-inspired gear like twin-tipped polos and notch-sleeved button down shirts in slim-fit profiles.

And yes, the past couple of "waves" did have all sorts of folks producing ska-influenced music in the mainstream that was outside of any "scene".

Bob Timm As popular now as ever? We'd like to think so but at least in NY it's still a long ways from when you had regular packed crowds at regular Wetlands shows running all night Sunday plus Moon Ska plus Version City plus every other venue trying to compete with better ska lineups.

Michelle Ska ^ you're going to get me all teary-eyed.

Tiffany Geard Enter marcus

Marcus Geard (Bassist of The Slackers) After 2 decades fighting in the trenches for ska I think I have seen enough to confirm Michelle is right. The strong influence of rocksteady on bands from Brooklyn to Austin shows a distinct departure from the punk dominance over third wave bands. Those of us who saw too much punk in too many ska-punk bands for too many years are thrilled to see new bands embracing slower deeper rhythms and really digging for the true roots. Don't stop fighting the good fight just because it is hard! Ska will never make you rich but it might just make you happy.

Tiffany Geard Werd marcus! Xxx

Navarone Reggae (ska DJ and promoter) naming a wave will likely be the death of it, but i think the departure from the punkiness of the 3rd wave and the return to some of today's more taditional leanings is more of a wake than a wave.

Joe Agogo (musician in Go Jimmy Go)I believe the 4th wave of ska is in the direction of incorporating more traditional style & rocksteady. Ska & it's waves have come in & out of the mainstreams but have seemed to finally made it's presence, in the modern world of music. Seems that most of the current living generations (of music fans now) knows what it is & has grown up hearing all forms. It's the new blues or jazz, though it always has been for many of us counter-culture enthusiasts... Though I have a broad range of musical taste now, it is & always will be my first love. Personally, 2tone did it for me. Just couldn't get it out of my head. Couldn't stop it lol On that note, everyone come out to Hawaii for my scooter rally on May 31st/June 1st with the English Beat & The Bussiness + much more TBA!!! Cheers & aloha. oh, final thoughts... it may be terrible but I wouldn't be surprised to hear people messing with a little electro ska lol

Bob Timm Other final thoughts, per Marcus' Universal Ska Theory, aka ska happiness beats ska money: yes, maybe we're in more of a ripple than a wave but the big difference between now and 90s is also less corporate hands in pockets for the money that people do spend in ska music. It's smaller but everyone involved it seems is there for the music first, not just "riding a wave."

GA Steiner (the one who got me started on this whole thing) Considering how nothing but hiphop and electronica can make a dime right now anyway, I think ska is doing pretty ok. Lots of good shows going on in the last few months. Just hoping some of the older bands who have been around or are reuniting will help give the next gen a shot to work with them a bit.

Andy Jeter (DJ on Ska on Sky.FM) As I see it, I feel that much of what we see in each wave of ska is a bit of a distorted echo of the previous waves absorbing other contemporary influences along with the elements of the original sound. While there has been a revival of the traditional sound with some bands during each wave, it has most definitely evolved and in some cases devolved. Then again there are those who have managed to time travel- Tim Armstrong's collaboration with Jimmy Cliff comes to mind as well as some of his current recordings as Tim Timebomb. I just read through the other 60 or so messages before the 10 that showed on my feed. When reading Chris Murray's comments on 3rd wave haters, I couldn't help but think of classmates in high school calling ska "reggae for white people" or "punk with horns." I don't know that they were all haters, just not educated. Then again, of those of my friends who were ska nerds, some saw successful and talented ska bands that managed to get some play on MTV or signed with a label as sellouts. My hometown band, Less Than Jake, was a target for these comments though they've managed to survive 20 years and counting with a broad world-wide fan-base and their time with major labels was a relatively small fraction of that 2 decades. They must have done something right.

Chris Murray i like bob's last comment, which says something similar to what i said about the third wave thriving before anything became mainstream. 20 years ago, people playing ska were doing it because they loved the music, they cared, and because they cared there were some great bands. when some bands broke through to the mainstream a ton of kids heard about ska for the first time by hearing reel big fish/sublime/bosstones, etc. and that's what they knew as ska, and a LOT of new bands formed very quickly without much knowledge about the roots of the music, some of them striving very hard to become commercial success stories, driven more by that than by love of the music (only my perception). today, the people playing ska music are doing it for the love of the music, as it was 20+ years ago. the third wave really grew over a number of years, quietly and underground, and it was only that growth that set the stage for anyone to break through. perhaps the scene today is in a similar stage to 20 years ago, maybe. either way, chances are the next big thing in ska will be something we've never heard yet, though when we do hear it the sound may be as familiar as it is fresh.

Andy Jeter Chris - I was one of those kids but I also chose to explore a bit further and found a love for the roots. It started with my local bands - LTJ (in their pre-fame days), The Usuals and some of the more popular bands at the time such as the Bosstones, Sublime and RBF. I got into some different bands that toured through my area or that my friends told me about which got me interested in finding out more. I got 2-Tone curious and was really into the Specials. It also happened that the Skatalites played a show in my town which helped foster the curiosity. In the late 90s I discovered the fantastic resource known as the web and happened across educational webpages such as Bob Timm's page about ska that helped to explain the history of the ska movements. I feel that much of what happened in the 90s was like a pool party where a most swimmers hung out in the shallow end and a couple of us decided to brave the deep end or even jump off the diving board. I feel that those who truly love the music (and culture) will educate themselves via their curiosity to hear more and dive right in.

Christopher SchultzI think the most important thing that any young band/musician needs to learn is how to show respect for what came before them, while simultaneously creating something new. If you try to innovate for the sake of inovation old school people can spot you from a mile away as someone who doesn't get it. In order for a whole new generation of artists to lead a new wave of any kind of music this has to be happening a wide scale. I think it goes to say that this is an extremely rare thing. That being said, theres definitely good things going on in our musical landscape lately.

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