Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Uptones - Not From Here

The Uptones, the Bay Area's premiere ska band, will be releasing some new songs soon. This is good news because Uptones productions are not only danceable but soulful as well.

Case in point: The first time I met members of The Uptones was at the Port Lite bar in a dark, lonesome section of West Oakland. Three of the defunct Uptones had carried on as Stiff Richards and our band was opening for them. I may be fuzzing the details here but two songs into their set, I remember telling someone in my band to come inside and listen because, "These guys are really good." Four songs into their set, I realized they were professional-caliber musicians who happened to be playing on a linoleum floor in a dive where cockroaches roamed the bathrooms and the bartender snarled if you displeased her in any way. And those ways were generally mysterious and unknown to you.

Professionals with soul; they played ska but mixed it up with reggae, punk rock, classic guitar-driven rock and humor. All of this had chops and heart. At the end of the night, they pulled up in a series of tiny automobiles and loaded up and out like they had done it a thousand times before. And so they had. The Uptones began when they were in high school in 1981 and went on to heavily influence a lot of popular ska-pop-punk bands that I won't go into here because none of them are as cool as the Uptones and that's my professional-caliber opinion.

They are re-formed now and you can see them live in places where the bartenders are not quite as surly. But au revoir, Port Lite. Apparently it couldn't last out by the warehouses of Oakland. I miss playing there and also miss Emmett who enthusiastically booked local bands, always wore (non-ironic) trucker hats and played pinball throughout every band's set.

Not From Here from "Skankin' Foolz Unite!"

3 comments:

jhoadley said...

I once played with Uptones guitarist Eric Dinwiddie in a would-be band. What a great guy and top-notch player. I didn't live in the Bay Area when they were originally together--maybe I can catch them now. Thanks for the tip.

Lisa Mc said...

They are nice. We shared a rehearsal space with them for several years and they never once rolled their eyes or called us stupid-heads when we called them dozens of times to say: Uptones: help us. We can't get the P.A. to work again.

At least, not that we know of.

E. Frank said...

Holy Cow! The Port Lite! I haven't thought about that place for many years. I used to eat breakfast and/or lunch there on a fairly regular basis back in the early 90's when I worked at 111 Myrtle Street off of Third.I saw the Uptones once somewhere in Berkeley. I liked 'em.