Natural Selection Squeezes Ska

British ska band Selecter recently played their first San Diego show in over five years at House of Blues. Chris Wise plays percussion in the local ska band Hi-Lites, which opened for Selecter. He has no idea why only 300 people showed up.

"According to myspace[.com] there are over 200 ska bands coming out of San Diego," says Wise. "Where were they? Selecter is a legendary two-tone ska band. We expected more out of San Diego. Maybe the word didn't get out."

Or maybe trend-conscious pop-music fans are avoiding ska, the upbeat Jamaican dance music that sometimes seems as hip as polka; a national tour named "Ska is Dead" (featuring the Toasters, San Diego's Buck-0-Nine, and others) seems out to prove it is not.

"Is ska still dead? It depends where you are," continues Wise. "[The next night] we opened for Selecter in L.A., at the Knitting Factory, and it sold out. It was so packed, you couldn't walk. Ska won't be as big as it was from '96 to '99, but it is definitely on the rise. But San Diego is more of a small town. It really takes a lot of promotion here to get things going.... Why see a live '80s band when you can go to Club '80s [at Chasers, in North Park] and hang out with your buddies in the patio? I guess we like pre-recorded music more than live bands in San Diego."

Wise wonders why myspace lists so many SD bands that claim to play ska.

"I know of about ten." He claims Outer Space and the Fabulous Rudies are going strong and Unsteady and Skanic have been together for over ten years.

The Hi-Lites appear November 5 at the Ken Club.

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