Whoever said ska is dead was only mostly right; but, as any Princess Bride fan knows, mostly dead is a little alive. And a little alive was all Save Ferris needed to fill Belly up with energy Sunday night. 

To most, Save Ferris is best known for playing on the high school roof in 10 Things I Hate About You, and for a cover of a Midnight Dexy Runners song. But to those at The Belly Up on a Sunday night, Monique Powell – who at this point, with her dyed red hair, is the band, give the cast of characters who have rotated in and out of playing instruments – it was a callback to the late 1990s, just… older.

The night kicked off with the swing/ska band Unsteady, who the audience greeted by using the open space as a dance floor. The Vista Kicks, a band out of Sacramento with a 1970s vibe (the drummer lit a cigarette as the set started, and smoked it while playing and occasionally singing, California laws be damned), but with a classic rock vibe and good songwriting. The band’s music wouldn’t be out of place on any local break on your favorite San Diego radio program, fitting in nicely with the upbeat rock that could serve as the audio backdrop to a surf session. 

But the night fully belonged to Powell, who entered in a shimmering white dress, only to later reveal her red skirt and ska-cherry patterned top underneath.

The band played the hits off of their first and most popular album, It Means Everything, but shared new songs off of their crowd-funded album, Checkered Past. The old songs sounded mostly as you remember them, helpfully fueled by nostalgia from the noticeably older crowd singing along.

There’s no question Powell still has the energy of a leading frontwoman, pulling the crowd’s strings, kibitzing, and reminding us all how long it had been since the band had been out touring the country. The banter and the crowd singing along helped to cover Powell’s voice, which seemed to also be a little worse for wear from the packed tour schedule. But, despite everything feeling, well, still old, the energy was up throughout the evening.

The big takeaway from the evening, despite Belly Up shining for each and every concert, was indeed that 20+ years later, ska isn’t quite fully dead. San Diego saw good shows from Save Ferris on Sunday, while Reel Big Fish play House of Blues this coming Friday, and Mxpx played in January.  Long live the checkerboard and skanking!

By: David Israel