Music Mephiskapheles .

Mephiskapheles .

Fistful of Ska: For a few ska-llers more

Published on May 13th, 2014 | by Joe Lawler

At this weekend’s Fistful of Ska festival, you don’t need to worry about a rain out. The three-day event takes place inside the Gas Lamp, ensuring perfect weather, if sometimes cramped quarters.

“It’s a little more intimate
of a music setting,” festival co-founder Shawn Johnson said. “Instead of a big wide field like at a standard festival, the fans are right next to the stage and the bands are interacting with the people in the crowd. It works really well, and a lot of positive energy comes out of it.”

Ska originated in Jamaica and has seen different surges in popularity over the years. In Jamaica, The Skatalites and early The Wailers material helped popularize the style. English acts like The Beat, The Specials and Madness helped spark the 2 Tone ska variant in England in the ’70s and ’80s. In the ’90s, bands like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish and No Doubt brought ska to the mainstream in America.

Johnson and Matt Baker held the first Fistful of Ska in December 2012, put on by their company, 3 Bridges. It featured four bands and three DJs over two days. In 2013 the festival jumped to 11 bands and five DJs over three nights. Johnson views 2013 as the first big Fistful of Ska, nearly selling out Gas Lamp.

This year’s lineup includes returning acts like The Bishops and Rude King, along with headliners Mephiskapheles, Hub City Stompers and Survay Says! Johnson said for the first time Fistful of Ska had to turn down some bands requesting to play, and that a lot of acts happened to be touring through the Midwest this weekend, like Mephiskapheles, which made it easier to arrange acts.

Looking to 2015, Fistful of Ska may be abandoning the safety of an inside venue for more space.

“I think this is probably going to be the last year inside; we want to do outside at some point,” Johnson said. “What that means exactly, we don’t know. But we would like to expand the footprint a little more and get more people in. We want to grow up a bit and get bigger headliners from the coast. We’ve been able to get great bands from the Midwest, but there are a lot of East Coast and West Coast acts yet to be tapped.”

Fistful of Ska

When: 7 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: Gas Lamp, 1501 Grand Ave.

Cost: $20 per day Friday and Saturday, $10 Sunday

Info: or


Friday: Mephiskapheles, The Soul Radics, The Bandulus, Chris Murray, The New Riddim, 3 Minute Hero

Saturday: Hub City Stompers, Jesse Wagner of The Aggrolites, The Bishops, Rude King, Umbrella Bed, Sammy Kay, Young Costello, The Last Slice

Sunday: Survay Says! Run & Punch, Must Build Jacuzzi, Fairhaven

About the Author

Joe Lawler covers music and more for Juice Magazine. E-mail him at or follow his updates on Twitter @JoeLawler

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