Best Ska Band

The Uptones

American ska is far less celebrated than its Jamaican and English counterparts. Yet the up-tempo, dance-friendly genre has had considerable impact on pop culture, having influenced everyone from Sublime to No Doubt to Green Day. One of the first (and greatest) American ska outfits, however, was raised right here in the East Bay — the Uptones. Products of Berkeley High School and Cazadero music camp, the Uptones became a force to be reckoned with on the local live music scene in the early ’80s, skanking onto radio airwaves with their powerful anti-war jingle, “Out to Sea.” which led to a deal with now-defunct I.R.S. records (one of the tastemaking indie labels of that era). Despite massive amounts of critical acclaim — Crawdaddy called their Live at Gilman Street album the “best live ska record ever” while Rolling Stone exclaimed “this record rocks from beginning to end” — their I.R.S. debut K.U.S.A. failed to capture their live show. The band broke up more than two decades ago, although members continued on in Stiff Richards and Hobo. But the ska jones never left their bones. Earlier this year, the newly reunited Uptones released Skankin’ Foolz Unite on Fun Fun Fun Records and have been playing shows ever since, as if to make up for lost time. The Uptones’ philosophy is probably best summed up by the lyrics of “Skanking Fool,” which state: So don’t be surprised if you feel the beat/Don’t be ashamed if you move your feet/In an East Bay style that’s doctor approved/Nobody bounce back like a skanking fool.


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