MUSIC BOX: Skanky Sounds

By on May 16, 2017

Idaho’s The Opskamatrists to send Tavern crowd into a dirty flurry.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – The summer is ramping up and as temperatures rise so too will the fabric shielding winter whitened thighs. The energy is not just in the air, but in the sound waves echoing around Jackson’s speakers. It’s time to bust out the old reggae mixes and elevate.

Try the Town Square Tavern 10 p.m. this Friday with Idaho Falls’ own ska-punk sextet The Opskamatrists.

It was an easy addition for Tavern talent buyer Chris Colella, who looks to the expertise of local artistry when turning his sights to the stage he books. When the Sneaky Pete boys recommend an impending dance party, Colella takes note.

“If [Sneaky Pete and the Secret Weapons] like a band on Facebook,” Colella said, “they’re probably going to end up at the Tavern. I think there’s a good ska following in the Hole, and we try to mix it up by booking any genre we think people will enjoy.”

Although originally founded in 1998, this band dates back nearly three quarters of a century to the Jamaican beaches where calypso skanked its way into the arms of American jazz. Their appendages flailed and other local styles swirled around them. What was born was a horn-rich walking bass line where listeners could not help but bob their heads and stamp their feet to the high-energy musical experience.

In the late 90s, brothers Chad and Bruce Christensen became ensnared by this sound’s surge in the United States. Chad Christensen remembers well the radios blasting bands like Buck-O-Nine and Reel Big Fish.

“We went and saw Buck-O-Nine when they came to Rexburg,” he said, “and we just fell in love with the music.”

The brothers have been playing together since the early years of high school, and their sound mirrored more of what Weezer was doing around the same time. “Rock” is what Christensen called it.

“After we went to that concert, we were just like, ‘we should do this!’” he said.

Over the past two decades, Super Skank became the LDS-friendly Opskamatrists as Christensen felt that the kids and admins at BYU-Idaho might take the former name by its American understanding rather than as it was intended. Today, 25 different members have wailed trumpets and saxophones with the high-hat/cymbal syncopations to the valley-boy inflection of Bruce’s California vocal imitations.

Few constants have carried through the years, not their mates or the lensless glasses they would all wear on stage. The passion for this type of performance and the brothers Christensen are all that remain from the early years, and Christensen says that once one of the brothers taps out, the show is over. “It’s something that him and I just love doing,” he said, “and we figure as soon as we stop, we’re done doing it.”

It is their camaraderie and “chill” personalities that have glued the project together.

“We’ve been in a band together since [Bruce] was a freshman in high school and I was a sophomore,” Christensen said. “We’ve always just played music together, and it’s worked out.”

On stage, the appeasing attitudes give way to rock star eccentricities, as the “skank-pit” ensues. It’s not a mosh pit where fans push, shove and slam into each other, but a wild and racing dance circle, with the vocalists ringleading their every move. Sometimes, it’s to tease the crowd with a bit of play.

“We try to make it fun for the crowd and try to get them involved in different songs, clapping or singing along,” Christensen said. “Sometimes, we’ll play games with the crowd. We’ve kind of developed this musical ‘skanking chairs.’”

Six chairs appear in the center and the music sends a few jiving around the seats. When the music stops, grab your spot.

And, play is the name of the game. As the band has grown and matured the message has with them. The early days dealt with facing down the Pocatello metal scene of the aught years armed with songs preaching religion and pot.

“The whole environment of music in the valley out here has changed from death metal to wanting different types of music,” Christensen said. “The last two years or so, the scene has changed … to where we can go down there and draw a really good crowd.”

Paraphernalia gave way to individuality as Christensen and Co. started having kids, the overarching theme being having fun—a sentiment well practiced by the versed mountain crowd of the Town Square Tavern. Whether barely legal or approaching senility, it’s something every age group can get behind.

“Our music can affect and be enjoyed by all generations of people,” Christensen said. PJH

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